Prisoner free exercise cases – August 29, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Daker v. Warren, (11th Cir., Aug. 22, 2016), the 11th Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s dismissal of a Muslim inmate’s free exercise challenge (but not his RLUIPA challenge) to a total ban on hardcover books and the dismissal of his RLUIPA challenge (but not his free exercise challenge) to holding religious services only on Wednesdays.

In Berger v. Burl, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111380 (ED AR, Aug. 22, 2016), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111559, Aug. 5, 2016) and dismissed an an atheist inmate’s claim that his rights were infringed when he was not allowed to grow a beard and long hair for non-religious reasons while others were permitted to do so for religious reasons.  The court allowed him to proceed on his complaint that a Christian group was allowed to line up outside his cell to sing and preach when he was placed in lock down.

In Robertson v. Call, 2016 Kan. App. Unpub. LEXIS 682 (KS App., Aug. 19, 2016), a Kansas appellate court affirmed dismissal of a free exercise challenge by a Messianic Jewish inmate to a rule that prevents prisoners in segregation from having face-to-face meetings with their spiritual advisers.  The court remanded for further findings an Establishment Clause challenge to the rule.

In Martin v. MacLaren, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112812 (WD MI, Aug. 24, 2016), a Michigan federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was denied access to his book titled “The Fundamentals of the Yoruba Religion (Orisa Worship).”

In Al-Azim v. Everett, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113109 (ED VA, Aug. 23, 2016), a Virginia federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with his complaint that he was not receiving meals that complied with Nation of Islam dietary requirements. However the court dismissed his complaints about the need for more time for group religious activities and his inability to purchase CDs of Minister Farrakhan’s sermons directly from the Final Call, Inc.

In Blalock v. Smith, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114215 (ND NY, Aug. 24, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge recommended that a Muslim inmate be allowed to proceed with his complaint that he was not permitted to wear his pants hemmed above the top of his ankle as religiously required; but recommended dismissing complaints over his inability to attend two congregate prayer services and over a cell search that confiscated religious books.

In Greene v. County of Durham Office of the Sheriff Department, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114425 (MD NC, Aug. 26, 2016), a North Carolina federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with a claim that arose when he was a pre-trial detainee that he was denied access to the day room for Islamic studies, but dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies his complaint that his Ramadan meal was thrown away and he was not given a replacement.