Prisoner free exercise cases – April 8, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Gutierrez v. Corrections Corporation of America, (5th Cir., April 3, 2014), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed as frivolous a Catholic inmate’s complaint that only non-denominational (apparently Protestant-oriented) programming from the Trinity Broadcasting Network is carried in the prison, and the prison does not furnish programming from the Catholic-oriented Eternal Word Broadcasting Network.

In Hughes v. Heimgartner, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45867 (D KA, April 3, 2014), a Muslim inmate complained that he was refused halal meals while in segregation. A Kansas federal district court ordered prison officials to investigate the matter, consider whether other similar complaints are related, and file a report with the court on whether action can and should be taken.

In Crews-Bey v. Price, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44313 (ND AL, April 1, 2014), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45394, March 4, 2014) and dismissed for lack of standing an inmate’s complaint that prison rules do not allow Moorish Science ordained ministers and Temple heads to perform marriage ceremonies for adherents incarcerated in Alabama prisons.

In Darrough v. Allen, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45917 (MD GA, April 3, 2014), a Georgia federal district court refused to allow an inmate to file an amended complaint alleging generally that he is being harassed by the warden because of his religious beliefs.

In Pfeil v. Lampert, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46389 (D WY, March 31, 2014), a Wyoming federal district court dismissed a Catholic inmate’s complaints that a religious volunteer, on a single occasion, was not permitted entry to provide Catholic services, and that a new policy prohibiting hardbound books in living quarters caused him to lose his religious books.

In Browning v. McDonnell, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46578 (WD VA, April 4, 2014), a Virginia federal district court dismissed as frivolous an inmate’s claim for $10 million in damages because Art. I, Sec. 16 of the Virginia Constitution that refers to “the duty which we owe to our Creator” and  “Christian forbearance” forces him to worship against his conscience and makes Christianity the official state religion.