Prisoner free exercise cases – February 13, 2017

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Fluker v. King, (5th Cir., Feb. 9, 2017), the 5th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by a Muslim inmate who complained that Muslim c-custody inmates could not attend Jumu’ah services outside of their unit while non-Muslim c-custody inmates could.

In Conway v. Alford, (8th Cir., Feb. 8, 2017), the 8th Circuit concluded that the mailroom’s withholding of publications from the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, classified as a security threat/ terrorist group, did not substantially burden an inmate’s religious exercise.

In Vasquez v. Rockland County, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14746 (SD NY, Jan. 31, 2017), a New York federal district court dismissed a complaint by an inmate that he was prevented from observing Ramadan due to being placed on a suicide watch.

In Gilliam v. Baez, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15680 (SD NY, Feb. 2, 2017), a New York federal district court dismissed without prejudice an inmate’s complaint that on two occasions he was permitted to participate in Nation of Islam classes.

In Harris v. Norwood, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15979 (WD AR, Feb. 6, 2017), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16205, Jan. 12, 2017) and permitted an inmate to proceed with his complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when he, as a “pork free person”, was denied pork free meal trays.

In Ayoubi v. Dart, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16310 (ND IL, Jan. 31, 2017), an Illinois federal district court dismissed a complaint by a Muslim inmate who the court described as “an experienced pro se litigator.” Plaintiff objected to limits on his access to religious services, refusal of post-Ramadan-fast meal trays, denial of a Halal diet containing meat, and prohibition on his using a prayer rug and wearing a head garment.

In Young v. Hooks, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17115 (SD OH, Feb. 7, 2017), an Ohio federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s complaint that during a search of his cell his bottle of prayer oil was poured out.

In Edwards v. Thomas, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17111 (MD PA, Feb. 6, 2017), a Pennsylvania federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his free exercise challenge to the refusal of his request for a kosher diet, which would have met his Halal diet requirements.

In Branco v. Milligan, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18094 (ND OH, Feb. 7, 2017), an Ohio federal district court dismissed a complaint by an inmate that on one occasion officials overlooked his housing unit when calling Muslim inmates down for a meal during Ramadan.

In Wallace v. Olivarria, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18148 (SD CA, Feb. 8, 2017), a California federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claim that a change in the schedule for his prison job violated his right to practice his religion.

In Martinez v. Richardson, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18188 (ED TX, Feb. 8, 2017), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18515, Jan. 19, 2017) and dismissed a complaint by a Satanist inmate that he was not permitted to perform Satanic rituals or possess various items (e.g. parchment paper, candles, a robe, a bell, a wand, a chalice) needed to practice his religion.