Prisoner free exercise cases – April 21, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Davis v. Abercrombie, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52479 (D HI, April 11, 2013), an Hawaii federal district court allowed three Native Hawaiian inmates to proceed with claims seeking to practice their Native Hawaiian religion in various ways. Most of the claims brought by several other Native Hawaiian inmates were dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. However state law claims were permitted to proceed.

In Jenkins v. Knight, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52613 (SD IN, April 11, 2013), an Indiana federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claims, among other things, that his free exercise and RLUIPA rights were infringed when he was removed as spokesperson for the Native American Circle.

In Wells-Bey v. Kopp, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54839 (D MD, April 16, 2013), a Maryland federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate’s complaint that the Department of Corrections violated his free exercise rights by providing an lacto-ovo diet instead of a non-vegetarian Halal diet. However the court refused to dismiss his complaint that the diet was inappropriate for him because of an allergy to eggs.

In Wilson v. Padgham, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54768 (ND FL, April 17, 2013), a Florida federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54765, April 5, 2013) and dismissed under the “three-strike” rule an inmate’s in pauperis lawsuit challenging as free exercise and RLUIPA violations the prison’s  grooming policy, lack of space for daily prayers, threats of retaliation, and a ban on congregate prayer in the housing dormitory.

In Stevens v. Yates, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55937 (ED CA, April 17, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, allegations by a Muslim inmate that he was denied access to the chapel and to a Muslim chaplain, that he was temporarily denied a head covering, and that he had a dispute regarding the date on which Ramadan ended.