Tenth Circuit Reinstates Conviction of Non-Indian for Violation of Eagle Act

Here is today’s decision in United States v. Wilgus.

The conclusion:

We are sensitive to the sincerity of Wilgus’ religious beliefs, and we do not question either the authenticity or the weight of his religious experience among Native Americans.  We recognize that this litigation has now been pending for more than a decade, and that both sides have put forward many meritorious arguments and reams of evidence.  The district court performed yeoman’s service in sorting through that evidence in an attempt to determine whether the Eagle Act permitting requirements are the least restrictive means of forwarding the government’s dual compelling interests.  The district court concluded in the negative, and we respect the work that went into it, but we cannot agree.  We are convinced that, in light of the options before the federal government, the regulations at issue are the least restrictive means available to advance its compelling interests.  We therefore REVERSE the conclusion of the district court to the contrary and hold that Wilgus’ conviction did not violate RFRA.

Here are the briefs.

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