Prisoner free exercise cases – August 06, 2012

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Dunn v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, (3rd Cir., July 30, 2012), the 3rd Circuit affirmed a  Pennsylvania federal district court’s opinion dismissing an inmate’s complaint that he was denied access to plants, herbs, crystals, tarot cards, runes, spices, and an altar cloth in his cell to practice his Wiccan religion, and that he was not permitted to grow his hair or beard and was denied a religious adviser.

In United States v. White, (10th Cir., July 31, 2012), the 10th Circuit agreed with a decision of the Kansas federal district court refusing to change defendant’s judgment of conviction to reflect his new Muslim name that he took legally on the same day he was sentenced. The court also refused to order the Bureau of Prisons to change their database records to recognize defendant’s Muslim name.

In Garraway v. Lappin, (3rd Cir., July 31, 2012), the 3rd Circuit rejected claims by a Muslim inmate that his rights under the 1st Amendment and RFRA were violated by prison policies limiting group prayer, lack of a full-time Sunni Muslim chaplain, alleged commissary markup of the price of Muslim religious items, prison policies as to Halal food and as to the number of books he could keep in his cell. 

In Selah v. Fischer2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104931 (ND NY, July 27, 2012), a New York federal district court adopted a federal magistrate’s recommendation (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105388, July 3, 2012) and permitted an inmate who practices the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith to proceed against several individual defendants on his free exercise, RLUIPA and equal protection claims that authorities failed to recognize and accommodate his religious beliefs in numerous ways.

In Hodgson v. Roy2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104665 (D MN, July 27, 2012), a Minnesota federal district court, adopting a magistrate’s recommendations as to this part of the case (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105082, May 2, 2012), dismissed on standing grounds an inmate’s Establishment Clause challenge to the prison system’s Christian-based InnerChange Freedom Initiative.

In Marin v. Corrections Corporation of America2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105547 (ND OH, July 29, 2012), an Ohio federal district court dismissed a complaint by an inmate that the prison chaplain has not purchased various divination tools and other items needed by him for the practice of his Santeria religion.

In Macedo v. Zeyer2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106327 (ND OH, July 31, 2012), an Ohio federal district court dismissed as moot Jewish inmate’s claim seeking and injunction to order that the prison’s kosher food be prepared in compliance with Bureau of Prison standards. The court rejected plaintiff’s claim that his free exercise rights were violated by communal, rather than individual, serving of grape juice for Shabbat services.

In Deleon v. Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106653 (ED TN, July 31, 2012), a Tennessee federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when a correctional officer did not allow him to sign up for Sunday Religious Service some other unidentified programs for a period of time.

In Ramrattan v. New York City Department of Corrections2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108603 (SD NY, Aug. 2, 2012), a New York federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies an inmate’s complaint that at Riker’s Island his religion was listed incorrectly as “Other,” there was no Hindu chaplain, his religious diet was not accommodated and he was prevented from observing several holy days.