Prisoner free exercise cases – February 26, 2018

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Dunham v. Wainwright, (5th Cir., Feb. 22, 2018), the 5th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an inmate’s complaint that limits on the number of letters he can send at state expense interferes with his right to send correspondence to religious organizations.

In Jordan v. Commonwealth, (VA Sup. Ct., Feb. 22, 2018), the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s refusal to allow an inmate to change his name after he underwent a religious conversion. The inmate conceded that the denial would not hinder his free exercise of religion.

In Gillen v. Parker, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26881 (MD TN, Feb. 20, 2018), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge recommended upholding a prison’s requirement that Musliim inmates must register their religion in order to participate in Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

In Clemens v. Warden, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27146 (ED PA, Feb. 20, 2018), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that one of his two Bibles was confiscated.

In Dawdy v. Allen, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27207 (ED MO, Feb. 21, 2018), a Missouri federal district court allowed a Jewish inmate to move ahead with a variety of complaints regarding the availability of kosher meals on holidays and the Sabbath; the requirement that there be 5 members for a religious community to have access to materials and services; and the denial of canteen funds for Jewish needs.

In Thomas v. Lakin, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27576 (SD IL, Feb. 21, 2018), an Illinois federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27639, Jan. 22, 2018) and dismissed as moot an inmate’s complaint that his requests for a copy of the Qur’an, a prayer mat, religious services, and a religious diet were denied.

In Hartney v. Butcher, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28765 (SD TX, Feb. 21, 2018), a Texas federal district court dismissed a Native American inmate’s complaint that some of his religious articles were confiscated.

In Hearns v. Gonzales, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28959 (ED CA, Feb. 22, 2018), a California federal magistrate judge allowed a Muslim former inmate to move ahead with his retaliation and free exercise claims growing out of a correctional officer’s pouring bleach on, and confiscating, his prayer rug.