Prisoner free exercise cases – August 18, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Kaufman v. Pugh, (7th Cir., Aug. 16, 2013), the 7th Circuit held that an inmate’s atheist study group request should be treated on an equal footing with requests by religious groups. Before denying the request for lack of interest, there must be a way for inmates to designate atheism as their alternative religious viewpoint. Denial of a new religious emblem and of used books sent to plaintiff was upheld.

In Jackson v. Phoenix, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112974 (SD IL, Aug. 12, 2013), an Illinois federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his free exercise and RLUIPA claim that he was denied a halal diet.

In Clay v. Parker, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113028 (WD TN, Aug. 12, 2013), a Tennessee federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113410, July 23, 2013) and dismissed an inmate’s free exercise and RLUIPA suit on statute of limitations grounds, holding that his administrative remedies were exhausted when plaintiff completed the internal prison system’s complaint system, and not at the later date that he completed the Tennessee Human Rights Commission process.

In Rose v. Muhammed, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113197 (SD NY, Aug. 7, 2013), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (Rose v. Masiey, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113741, July 16, 2013), and dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies an inmate’s complaints that the handling of food at Rikers Island facility led to meals that failed to comply with Halal requirements.

In Garnica v. Washington Department of Corrections, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114322 (WD WA, Aug. 13, 2013), a  Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114328, June 19, 2013) and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint regarding the adequacy of Ramadan meals and timing of the Eid ul-Fitr feast.

In Nellum v. Stiltner, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114476 (ED CA, Aug. 12, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s free exercise complaint that his Bible was missing following a cell search. 

In Coleman v. Jabe, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114551 (WD VA, Au. 13, 2013), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a Salafi Muslim inmate’s challenge to policies that establish an official compact-disc vendor; establish an official prayer-oil vendor; omit halal meat from VDOC’s “Common Fare” diet; and result in grouping Salafi Muslims with Sunni Muslims for group worship.

In Nzaddi v. Dinardo, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115508 (D MA, Aug. 14, 2013), a Massachusetts federal district court dismissed a transgender Bah’ai inmate’s claims relating to wearing women’s “religious headwear” for modesty, the practice of several holistic rituals, and “a religious-dietary syntax” involving unpeeled, unprocessed, uncooked and chemical-free food.

In Avery v. Elia, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115775 (ED CA, Au. 14, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge allowed a Wiccan inmate to move ahead with his complaint that he was denied use of a fire pit and his religious altar was confiscated.

In Gray v. Stolle, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116478 (ED VA, Aug. 16, 2013), a Virginia federal district court, while dismissing an inmate’s other claims, allowed the inmate (who was studying Judaism) to move ahead with his complaint that his request for a kosher diet was denied.

In Depaola v. Ray, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116553 (WD VA, Aug. 16, 2013), a Virginia federal district court adopted, with modifications, a magistrate’s recommendations and rejected a Muslim inmate’s complaint that female guards might have witnessed him being strip searched. It dismissed on qualified immunity grounds plaintiff’s damage claims complaining about Jumu’ah services on muted DVD, and his inability to perform wudu and pray while on a transport to a court hearing. The court remanded to the magistrate for further consideration the issue of whether plaintiff is entitled to an injunction requiring close-captioning of the DVD Jumu’ah services.