Prisoner free exercise cases – February 11, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Jones v. Beaver County Jail2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13702 (WD PA, Feb. 1, 2013), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge dismissed an inmate’s claim that his free exercise rights were violated by the refusal to provide him with vegetarian meals.

In Sloane v. Nevada2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13332 (D NV, Jan. 30, 2013), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185431, Oct. 12, 2012) and allowed a Jewish inmate to proceed with his complaint that Seder supplies sent to him were delivered too late for him to use them for the First Seder. However the court dismissed his complaint that he did not receive kosher for Passover food on two days.

In Moore v. Gloucester County Jail2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15326 (D NJ, Feb. 5, 2013), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that while being held in the county jail, on two occasions his prayers were interrupted.  The court also dismissed his complaint that the jail does not provide Muslim inmates with a place to conduct prayers or attend Jumuah service, and only provides for church services. Plaintiff sought $50 million in damages.

In Roberts v. Schofield2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16042 (MD TN, Feb. 6, 2013), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing, in part on mootness grounds, the complaint by two prisoners that their correctional facility did not serve proper Kosher meals nor allow them to engage in certain other Jewish religious observances.

In Haas v. Spencer2012 Mass. Super. LEXIS 374 (MA Super., Dec. 6, 2012), a Massachusetts state trial court rejected two inmates’ constitutional and statutory challenges to their temporary suspension of access to the building in which religious services were held. The step was taken because the one of the inmates had gotten the Catholic chaplain improperly to mail letters for them while the other got the chaplain to look up information in the Inmate Management System.

In Davilla v. National Inmate Appeals Coordinator2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15991 (SD GA, Feb. 6, 2013), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16940, Jan. 22, 2013) and dismissed an inmate’s claim that his rights under the 1st Amendment and RFRA were infringed when the requirement that he purchase all personal religious property from the commissary inventory or through an approved catalogue source precluded him from obtaining Santeria beads and cowrie divination shells that contain “ache”.

In Rainey v. Huertas2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16798 (D CO, Feb. 7, 2013), a Colorado federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16799, Jan. 17, 2013) and dismissed an inmate’s claim that his religious rights were infringed when the religious diet he was served was not a “mechanical soft diet” as ordered by the facility’s medical department.