When Protect The 1st filed an amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit seeking to stop a land swap that would transform the sacred lands of the Apache tribes into a giant mining pit, we had no lack of company.
Sponsors of the brief included the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the Sikh Coalition.
We declared: “While, on its surface, this case concerns Native American religious rights, the district court’s erroneously narrow standard for what qualifies as a substantial burden under RFRA (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) will harm Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hare Krishna, Christian and all manner of religious communities, organizations and individuals.”
Now the Ninth Circuit, after an extraordinary en banc rehearing, is considering the fate of lands recognized by the U.S. government as sacred and held in trust since 1852. If the foreign mining consortium is allowed to proceed, it will transform the Apache’s sacred lands, leaving a hole in the ground as long as the Washington Mall and as deep as two Washington monuments.
The ability of the government to ignore RFRA and utterly destroy a religious site is drawing protest from Christian faith leaders and those of other religions who will make a Prayer Rising pilgrimage to Oak Flat on Saturday, Nov. 4. Dr. John Mendez, retired pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, says: “It’s not just the Apache struggle, it’s all our struggle.”