Prisoner free exercise cases – August 12, 2012

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Hennis v. Tedrow, (3d Cir., Aug. 7, 2012), the 3rd Circuit upheld dismissal of an inmate’s claim that his rights were violated when he was told to cut his dreadlocks (but never in fact forced to do so) and was not provided his religious vegetarian meals during a prison lock down.

In Burton v. Clark2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109106 (ED CA, Aug. 2, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing free exercise and RLUIPA claims by an inmate whose request for a special religious diet was refused.  He sought a vegetarian diet free of excess beans, butter, margarine, peanut butter, and cheese, and claimed that the food needed to be blessed by a rabbi to make it kosher.

In Hull v. Cox2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109272 (D NV, July 27, 2012), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109273, June 6, 2012) and dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies an inmate’s complaint that prison officials have refused to recognize his Community of Christ religion and have not scheduled a time slot for its services.

In Gibson v. Campbell2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111050 (D CO, Aug. 8, 2012), a Colorado federal district court agreed with a federal magistrate judge that an inmate’s free exercise rights weer not infringed when authorities prohibited him from having an audio book player in his cell.

In Lemcool v. Poole2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111131 (ND FL, Aug. 8, 2012), a Florida federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111132, July 9, 2012), and dismissed as moot a Wiccan inmate’s complaint about the inability to schedule Sabbat and Esbats and holy day worship. A change in policy now permits inmates to engage in religious exercise under staff supervision, even if an outside volunteer is unable to be present.

In Chance v. TDCJ2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111214 (ED TX, Aug. 8, 2012), a federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111230, July 9, 2012) and dismissed complaints of a Native American inmate regarding the adequacy of Native American religious ceremonies that are offered.  He objected to the lack of weekly group teaching ceremonies, and complained that smudging and pipe ceremonies are held only monthly with only the chaplain smoking the pipe and only water smudging. He was also denied the right to carry a lock of his deceased parents’ hair in a pouch.

In Wesley v. City of New York, (SD NY, Aug. 10, 2012), a New York federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate’s claim that he should be furnished Halal food prepared in accordance with his interpretation of Halal. He objected to the food that the Department of Corrections served under its religious meal program because Halal food trays were washed together with non-Halal trays.