Prisoner free exercise cases – February 17, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Riley v. Decarlo, (3d Cir., Feb. 13, 2013), the 3rd Circuit rejected a Muslim inmate’s claims that his free exercise and equal protection rights were infringed by the failure to provide a Halal meat diet to all Muslim inmates and by the Pennsyvania Department of Corrections policy of administering a PPD test for tuberculosis.

As reported by AP, the 8th Circuit in Sims v. Randall, (8th Cir., Feb. 14, 2013) summarily dismissed an appeal of a Nebraska federal district court decision rejecting claims that Nebraska prison officials failed to fully carry out a 2005 agreement to accommodate the religious and cultural needs of Native American inmates.

In March v. Townsend, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17615 (ED TN, Feb. 8, 2013), a Tennessee federal district court permitted an Orthodox Jewish inmate to proceed under RLUIPA and the 1st Amendment with his complaint that he was terminated from a kosher diet for his breakfast meal, was served only vegetarian dishes, and that  non-kosher trays and utensils were used in the kosher meal service.

In Creveling v. Johnson, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18373 (D NJ, Feb. 11,2013), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed a claim by an inmate in a Special Treatment Unit for sexual offenders that his free exercise rights were violated because the facility did not offer weekly Catholic Mass.

In Jenner v. Sokol, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18075 (D CO, Feb. 11, 2013), a Colorado federal district court permitted a Jewish inmate to proceed with his complaint about cancellation and timing of Shabbat services, but dismissed his claims regarding the availability of religious supplies.

In Powers v. Naiman, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18026 (MD FL, Feb. 11, 2013), a Florida federal district court rejected the portion of a magistrate’s report (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185875, Nov. 2, 2012) recommending dismissal of a Messianic Jewish inmate’s complaint under RLUIPA that he was not allowed to keep his religious garments in his cell.  Instead the court permitted defendants to file a corrected motion to dismiss based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

In Guthrie v. Unknown Handline, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18462 (WD MI, Feb. 12, 2013), a Michigan federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185988, Oct. 19, 2013) and dismissed on statute of limitations grounds and inmate’s complaint that a corrections officer permitted an inmate to attack him because of his religion.

In Blake v. Cooper, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18530 (WD MO, Feb. 12, 2013), a Missouri federal district court dismissed Muslim inmates’ claim that they were not allowed to break their Ramadan fast with dates, finding that any violation was de minimis and did not place a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion.

In Foster v. Western District of Louisiana, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18906 (WD LA, Feb. 12, 2013), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18914, Jan. 16, 2013) and dismissed a complaint by a Muslim inmate that his right to participate in Friday Jumah services was curtailed and he was not provided religious education.