(Oklahoma—April 23, 2019) On Friday, April 19, and without any prior notice, Raja’ee Fatihah, a board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Oklahoma, filed a motion to dismiss his lawsuit against Chad and Nicole Neal, the owners of an Oklahoma gun range. This lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Oklahoma, has been ongoing for more than three years. Fatihah is represented by lawyers from CAIR, the ACLU, and a large New York law firm. The usual suspects.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) represents the Neal’s.
Today, the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.
In his motion, Fatihah claimed that dismissal was necessary due to a “change in circumstances,” namely, that the Neal’s replaced their “Muslim-Free” establishment sign with a “Terrorist-Free” establishment sign and that they do not have a formal policy of discriminating against persons at their gun range based solely upon the person’s religion. But nothing has changed. This lawsuit was a setup from the beginning, and Fatihah and his lawyers knew they were going to lose at the upcoming trial scheduled for July 9, 2019.
Indeed, in a motion filed with the court two years ago (April 28, 2017), the Neal’s stated as follows:
Plaintiff [Fatihah] was not denied use of Defendants’ [the Neal’s] gun range based on any prohibited category or characteristic, including religion, and Defendants do not have a policy of restricting access to the gun range on the basis of religion (or any other prohibited category or characteristic). This dangerous lawsuit, which was contrived to create a controversy and a disturbance at a gun range, was promoted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and its Oklahoma affiliate, CAIR-Oklahoma. While Defendants’ views on Islam—views which are supported by the many and recent deadly attacks committed by self-proclaimed Islamic jihadists—might be considered politically incorrect, these views cannot serve as a basis for civil liability in this case under the First Amendment regardless of how Defendants express them, including on a sign posted at their business. But that is precisely what Plaintiff is seeking to do here: to punish Defendants because they express the view that Islam is an existential threat to our local and national security.
On October 23, 2015, Plaintiff Raja’ee Fatihah, a board member for the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR—an organization that federal, state, and foreign governments acknowledge has ties to terrorism—went to Defendants’ gun range armed with a loaded (round in the chamber) military-issue handgun strapped to his side, a military-style rifle slung over his shoulder, magazines loaded with approximately 140 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, a concealed recording device in his pocket, and a dangerous agenda: to create a controversy with armed individuals at the gun range, hoping that he would not be allowed to fire his weapons so he could file this meritless lawsuit and run to the media with his pre-arranged “Islamophobia” narrative, knowing that the liberal media would willingly serve as an echo chamber for his spurious claim of discrimination.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise commented:
“CAIR’s extremely reckless and dangerous attempt to set up a lawsuit to make a political point has failed. They put lives at risk by sending an armed individual into a gun range to create a controversy with our clients, who were also armed. This case has always been about public safety. Nothing has changed. Apparently, CAIR and the ACLU didn’t want to put CAIR’s nefarious ties to terrorism on trial, so they caved in. And in the end, the good guys won . . . yet again.”
This controversy arose when, following the Chattanooga, Tennessee terrorist attack in July 2015, where a Muslim terrorist claimed that he trained on a private gun range prior to going on his deadly shooting spree, the Neal’s posted a “Muslim-Free” establishment sign as a political protest. The Neal’s vowed to never let their range be used to train the next terrorist. The sign did not state a business policy, and CAIR and the ACLU knew that—they just didn’t like the Neal’s equating Islam with terrorism.
In fact, in August 2015, six months prior to Fatihah filing this lawsuit, Nicole Neal made the following “official” statement on Facebook regarding the controversial sign:
No person has ever been turned away from Save Yourself Survival And Tactical Store for discrimination of any kind. People’s (sic) of every race, and religion are welcome at our store so long as our safety rules, and our store policies are observed. Safety of our customers, staff and community is our primary concern . . . Hateful behavior of any kind by anyone will not be tolerated period. . . . Members found guilty of discrimination will be asked to leave the property immediately, their club membership will be revoked (without refund), and they will be banned from our establishment for life. . . . We do stand by, and defend our policy not to allow radical, or extremists persons, groups, or establishments to do business at our establishment. . . .
When asked about the sign by an ACLU lawyer during her sworn deposition, Nicole Neal testified as follows:
Q: What does the sign mean in terms of who may use your business?
A: It does not.
Q: I’m not understanding the answer. What does the sign mean in terms of who may use your business?
A: It does not.
Q: It does not mean anything?
A: It does not mean who can use my business.
Q: Okay. So this sign—does this sign mean that no Muslims are allowed in the business?
A: No, it does not.
Q: What was the purpose of posting it?
A: This sign is a political protest to the Chattanooga attacks.
Q: What do you think customers—what did you anticipate customers would think when they saw that sign?
A: I do not know what customers would think.
* * *
Q: So did you intend the sign to convey a business policy to the public?
In fact, the record revealed that no one has ever been denied service at the Neal’s gun range based solely on his or her religion or any other characteristic prohibited by law. The Operating Agreement for the gun range and the gun range’s official rules state as follows:
It is and always has been the policy of Save Yourself Survival And Tactical Gear And Gun Club, LLC (hereinafter “Gun Club”) to comply with all federal, state, and local laws, including such laws that prohibit unlawful discrimination.
But the policy also states:
However, because the Gun Club is engaged in an inherently dangerous business—the use of firearms—the safety of its customers, its employees, and the community is paramount. The Gun Club firmly resolves that it will not arm, equip, or train anyone it believes to be a threat to public safety. The Gun Club has that right, and it intends to exercise that right for the good of public safety. Consistent with this policy, the Gun Club will not serve:
(a) Anyone who is either directly or indirectly associated with terrorism in any way;
(b) Anyone associated in any way with an organization that is associated with terrorism;
(c) Anyone who causes, or seeks to cause, any disturbance whatsoever at the Gun Club;
(d) Anyone who is not permitted to purchase or possess a firearm under any local, state, or federal guideline;
(e) Anyone who seeks to do harm to the interests of the United States;
(f) Anyone, in the sole judgment of the Gun Club, its owners, its employees, or its volunteers, who may pose a threat to public safety based on the person’s behavior, comments, history, dress, background, or other such indicia indicating that the person may be a threat to public safety. This judgment will not be based solely upon a person’s race, color, religion, or sex.
Consequently, the Neal’s official business policy of protecting public safety from potential threats of violence, including terrorism, was codified in their rules and in their official Operating Agreement for the business years ago. This policy is publicly posted in plain view to all who seek to use their gun range. Customers are required to read the policy and agree with it prior to using the range.
When AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise questioned Fatihah during his deposition about this policy, Fatihah had to admit that this was a legitimate policy. In fact, he admitted that it was the “responsible” thing to do:
Q: Do you have any objection to a gun range adopting a safety-conscious policy like that as indicated in Exhibit No. 18 [the gun range rules] that you just read?
A: Being a Muslim and understanding the current climate with regard to Islam, I think it’s problematic that the language on association with terrorism and I would question how they make the determination as to who is associated with terrorism and—
Q: Let me pause you. What if they relied on the government, the U.S. government, would that be appropriate?
A: If the United States government determined an organization was a terrorist organization, I think it would be responsible of them to follow that guidance.
Q: And how about if the government determined that they have ties to terrorist organizations?
A: If the government determined that an organization has ties to a terrorist organization, I think it would also be a responsible thing.
Q: To not allow them to shoot at the range?
“Mr. Henderson” is one of the ACLU lawyers representing Fatihah in this lawsuit, and you can see by his constant “objections” to the questions that he saw this case unraveling.
As testified to by the Neal’s in response to a discovery request regarding how they enforce their “no terrorist” policy, the Neal’s stated:
“To enforce these provisions of our Gun Range Rules, we rely principally on information found in the public domain. This includes information from news sources, television, radio, and the Internet. With regard to Mr. Fatihah’s association with terrorist organizations, we learned from the Internet that he is a board member of CAIR-Oklahoma. We have produced, and included in our summary judgment filings, numerous documents from the public record connecting CAIR with terrorists, including documents from the Holy Land Foundation criminal trial where the presiding judge stated in his written opinion that the United States government ‘produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.’ We incorporate all these documents and exhibits into this response. Hamas is officially designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government. The United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally, has officially designated CAIR a terrorist organization. We also produced information about a recent resolution from the Arkansas House of Representatives setting forth CAIR’s ties to terrorists.”
As the “Muslim-free” sign and the public memory of the Chattanooga terrorist attack faded with time, the Neal’s removed the “Muslim-free” sign on December 21, 2018. They replaced the original sign on occasion because it fades in the sun, and they kept it up and replaced it on occasion because Fatihah sued them. When asked about this decision in a discovery request, the Neal’s responded as follows:
“We believe that part of the agenda driving this lawsuit is to silence our right to free speech because Mr. Fatihah, CAIR, and the ACLU dislike our views on Islam. We refuse to be gagged, so we did not remove [the “Muslim-free” sign] while this case was proceeding to summary judgment. Our plan was to keep it up past a ruling on summary judgment, and then take it down on our terms, which we did.”
As we reported previously, on December 19, 2018, the presiding federal judge denied summary judgment, sending this case to trial.
In March of this year, following the New Zealand attack, the Neal’s posted the following two signs. This information was promptly provided to Fatihah’s lawyers. The first sign states:
THIS PRIVATELY OWNED BUSINESS IS A
WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE FOR SAFETY!!!
The second sign states:
In case you were wondering (or had questions), “terrorist” includes the following:
If you support or are associated with any of these organizations, do not enter these doors!
Consequently, as was true in July 2015 as it is today, the Neal’s do not want their range to be used to train the next terrorist. As a result, the Neal’s will not permit anyone associated with terrorism, including anyone associated with CAIR, which includes Fatihah, to use their range. Nothing has changed.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi commented:
“The law does not require a gun shop or gun range owner—owners of an inherently dangerous business—to equip or train the next jihadist. CAIR is a Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas front group, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation criminal trial—the largest terrorism financing trial prosecuted to date—the FBI has severed all ties with CAIR, and the UAE has declared CAIR a terrorist organization. Consequently, our clients’ public safety concerns were entirely justified. Not only do our clients have a right to refuse to serve someone they believe to be a public safety risk, they have an obligation to their other customers, employees, and the community to do so. This type of litigation by CAIR and the ACLU weakens our local and national security. People should be outraged by their filing of this lawsuit.”