Prisoner free exercise cases – July 14, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Mathis v. Monza, (3rd Cir., July 8, 2013), the 3rd Circuit rejected an inmate’s argument that his Establishment Clause and equal protection rights were violated by a jail’s policy allowing Restricted Housing Unit inmates to possess religious texts but not non-religious texts, and allowing them to have visits from religious advisers but not from others.

In Lewis v. Amato, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94503 (ND NY, July 8, 2013), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95532, June 7, 2013) and dismissed plaintiff’s general claim that inmates in involuntary protective custody were precluded from practicing religion.

In Shields v. Foston, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95776 (ED CA, July 9, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate’s RLUIPA claim objecting to prison regulations that deny conjugal visits to inmates serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Plaintiff argued that the policy prevented him from consummating his marriage and making it valid under Islamic law.

In Hernandez v. Pugh, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96456 (ND OH, July 10, 2013), an Ohio federal district court denied a Jewish inmate’s motion to reconsider the court’s prior dismissal of his suit.  The court held that plaintiff was not made to eat meat and dairy together in violation of Jewish law. Rather his stockpiling of meals during a fast day instead of taking the post-fast meal provided to others led to the problem.

In Handzlik v. Lain, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96767 (ND IN, July 11, 2013) and in Bray v. Lain, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97269 (ND IN, July 12, 2013), an Indiana federal district court permitted pre-trial detainees to proceed with their claims that the jail staff, for no legitimate reason, has intercepted books sent to them that they need to practice their religion.

In Alldred v. Keller, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97045 (ED NC, July 11, 2013), a North Carolina federal district court permitted two Messianic Jewish inmates to proceed under RLUIPA and the 1st Amendment on their complaint that authorities denied  them kosher meals as well as group worship on the Sabbath and holy days.