Federal Court Rejects Tribal Religious Challenge to Dakota Access Pipeline


February 20, 2017

A federal judge this week initially rejected a claim brought by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe that construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) through tribal lands violates their religious beliefs under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The ruling, which allows construction of the pipeline to continue, sets up what may be the next key test of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision.

On February 7, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified Congress that it was moving forward with construction. This followed an executive order issued in late January by President Donald Trump ordering the project’s completion. The tribe sued to block construction the next day, arguing that the pipeline—which, as currently planned, would run through tribal lands and under Lake Oahe—will desecrate sacred water.



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