Prisoner free exercise cases – July 23, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Chavis v. United States, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96940 (D NJ, July 17, 2014), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed without prejudice a claim by an inmate that his free exercise rights were infringed when a correctional officer conducted a pat-down search of him in a “homosexual manner.”

In Sharp v. Gay, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97825 (D AZ, July 18, 2014), an Arizona federal district court, after a 3-day bench trial, held that a prison’s policy allowing Native American inmates to obtain wood for sweat ceremonies only by in-kind donations from family or friends outside the prison violates RLUIPA. The court ordered prison officials to set up a group religious account to allow for inmate and outside financial contributions for the purchase and delivery of firewood. The court however rejected plaintiff’s equal protection claim seeking an additional religious meeting time each week for Native Americans.

In Randolph v. Griffin, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97369 (WD NY, July 16, 2014), a New York federal district court permitted a Jewish inmate to proceed with his claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when a correctional officer ordered him to remove his yarmulke indoors (including in his cell) and then permanently confiscated it.

AFP reports that in France on July 22, a court ruled that a prison need not furnish Muslim prisoners halal food, since they can obtain meals without pork or vegetarian meals, can purchase halal meat and recieve special meals during the main holidays.