Even though government returned eagle feathers to Robert DeSoto, he still faces criminal charges
MCALLEN, TEXAS – On April 28, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, located in McAllen, Texas, will hear the case of Pastor Robert Soto of the Lipan Apache Tribe, whose sacred eagle feathers were confiscated by the government in a covert operation called “Operation Powwow.” The hearing — and possible same-day decision — will determine whether the federal government can seize eagle feathers from religious Native American dancers and bar them from practicing their faith (see video).
The hearing comes one month after the federal government returned Mr. Soto’s feathers, seized nine years ago, but under the condition that they could not be used by anyone else in his family or tribe. Mr. Soto is a tribal chief and award-winning feather dancer, yet faced criminal fines and imprisonment for possessing eagle feathers according to his Native American faith.
Although the government returned the eagle feathers to Pastor Robert Soto, he is still not allowed to lend them to anyone, let others use them, or obtain additional feathers, or else he will be subject to fines and imprisonment. The government also refuses to change the current law that makes it a crime for the other plaintiffs to practice their faith. Because all of the plaintiffs are still threatened with fines and imprisonment, the Becket Fund continues to defend their rights in court.
The case featured prominently in the recent national debate over religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas, and it has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News (his clip is available here), and other major media outlets.
Oral Argument in McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Jewell
Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
April 28, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. Central
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
1701 W. Hwy. 83, Suite 1011
McAllen, TX 78501