United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
297 F.3d 1116 (10th Cir. 2002)
Possessing golden-eagle feathers is a crime under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. § 703, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), 16 U.S.C. § 668(a). Hardman and Wilgus (defendants) were both non-Indian practitioners of American Indian religion who received golden-eagle feathers as a result of their participation in American Indian religious ceremonies. Hardman and Wilgus both applied for permits to possess the feathers under the MBTA, but were denied because they were not members of a federally recognized Indian tribe. Hardman and Wilgus were subsequently charged with violating the prohibitions against possession of golden-eagle feathers and appealed their convictions. A third defendant,. Saenz, was a lineal descendant of the Chiricahua Apache, which was not a federally recognized Indian tribe. Saenz also owned eagle feathers that were seized during a search of his property. After charges against him were dismissed, Saenz sought recovery of the feathers from the government. The district court granted his request. The United States appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Tenth Circuit subsequently vacated all three decisions and ordered them reheard en banc to determine if the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq., governed the actions of all three defendants.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tacha, C.J.)
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