Prisoner free exercise cases – April 4, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Navarro v. Herndon, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39682 (ED CA, March 25, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that a Native American inmate be allowed to move ahead with his complaints regarding denial of access to a sweat lodge, to a  spiritual advisor and to religious property.

In Seagraves v. Treachler, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40992 (D NJ, March 29, 2016), a New Jersey federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his free exercise and RLUIPA claims that the prison chaplain denied his request for vegetarian meals.

In Bey v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation & Parole, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41017 (MD PA, March 29, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations that an inmate who was a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America and objected to the Therapeutic Community program in which he was required to participate can move ahead with an establishment clause, but not a free exercise clause, claim.

In Presley v. Scott, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40107 (ND AL, March 28, 2016), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41087, March 2, 2016) and dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Native American inmate’s complaint that authorities seized his medicine bag and the refused to allow him to retrieve religious objects when he was transferred.

In Hoever v. Bellelis, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41168 (ND FL, March 29, 2016) a Florida federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41174, Feb. 24, 2016) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was denied his English version of the Bible and two devotional books for 26 days.  During that time he had his own Spanish Bible and could pray.

In Givens v. Vaughn, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41208 (SD IL, March 29, 2016), an Illinois federal district court allowed an African American Hebrew Israelite inmate to move ahead with complaints regarding denial of group Sabbath day services and ending of his kosher diet as well as retaliation and equal protection claims.

In Thomas v. Dakota County Law Enforcement Center, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41596 (D MN, March 29, 2016), a Minnesota federal district court held that because plaintiff, a Muslim inmate, named defendants only n their official capacities, his only claim that can move forward is one that the county had a policy of prohibiting Muslim prisoners from holding religious gatherings.

In Uduko v. Cozzens, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42048 (ED MI, March 30, 2016), a Michigan federal district court, while dismissing claims against a number of defendants, allowed an inmate who was Nigerian and a Protestant to move ahead with claims based on retaliation and discrimination against the prison chaplain who barred defendant from leading Protestant services or Bible or study groups, and later barred him from prophesying or praying for others in group services.

In Sanders v. Cain, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42069 (MD LA, March 28, 2016), a Louisiana federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that Mormons could not worship together on Sundays at the main prison complex and were denied club status, and that his transfer to another part of the prison prevented him from congregating or holding fund raisers with other Mormons.

In Johnson v. Ely State Prison, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42378 (D NV, March 30, 2016), a Nevada federal district court, while disagreeing in part with a magistrate’s reasons, agreed that material facts remain for the fact finder on a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was prevented from attending Jum’ah for three years while held as a high risk inmate serving disciplinary sanctions.