Prisoner free exercise cases – February 15, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Gupton v. Wright, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14730 (WD VA, Feb. 6, 2016), a Virginia federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that authorities denied publications and holiday packages to Asatru inmates.

In Sands v. Smith, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15200 (ED CA, Feb. 5, 2016, a California federal magistrate judge allowed a Jewish inmate to move ahead with his free exercise and retaliation complaints regarding failure to provide kosher food and Jewish religious services on many occasions.

In Edwards v. Rubenstein, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15236 (ND WV, Feb. 9, 2016), a West Virginia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15237, Jan. 20, 2016) and dismissed complaints of a Muslim inmate about treatment of Muslims less favorably than Christians, and about a now-modified ban on growing beards.

In Irvin v. Yates, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15272 (ED CA, Feb. 8, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that a Muslim inmate be permitted to move ahead with his complaints about a new halal religious diet program, access to chapel and denial of packages containing religious items.

In Amos v. Karol, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15354 (ED MO, Feb. 9, 2016), a Missouri federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was not provided halal meals, was not allowed to possess a prayer rug or hardback Qu’ran, and was not given access to an Imam.

In McDaniels v. Stewart, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15843 (WD WA, Feb. 8, 2016), a Washington federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend a suit by a Muslim inmate against of 40 defendants seeking compensatory damages and over $27 million in punitive damages alleging inadequacy of the halal diet and his inability to go back on it after switching to a vegan diet.

In Rodriguez v. Hubbard, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16432 (ED CA, Feb. 9, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing without prejudice for failure to exhaust internal remedies the complaints by a Native American inmate regarding lack of religious services, confiscation of his sacred pipe, sweat lodge access, ceremonial tobacco use, and lack of access to a Native American spiritual advisor, as well as retaliation and lack of protection claims.

In Casey v. Stephens, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16976 (SD TX, Feb. 9, 2016), a Texas federal district court dismissed a suit by a Native American inmate seeking the right to grow his hair long or wear a kouplock; wear a medicine bag; and keep and smoke a personal prayer pipe.

In Chaparro v. Ducart, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17780 (ND CA, Feb. 8, 2016), a California federal district court dismissed a suit by a Jehovah’s Witness inmate complaining about the prison’s former policy of denying an inmate the right to attend religious services for a month if the inmate missed without a valid reason a service he was scheduled to attend.