Prisoner free exercise cases – July 26, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Littell v. Kennell, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93757 (CD IL, July 20, 2015), an Illinois federal district court held that a Muslim inmate stated a valid First Amendment claim alleging that Muslims were not permitted to congregate for prayer, but because he is no longer held by the Illinois Department of Corrections injunctive relief is not available; only nominal (and possibly punitive) damages are.

In Snodgrass v. Robinson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95026 (WD VA, July 21, 2015), a Virginia federal magistrate judge recommended that a Muslim inmate be permitted to proceed against various defendants on his RLUIPA, free exercise and due process challenges to a policy that denied inmates the right to participate in the Ramadan fast if they had missed more than three consecutive religious services.


In Aragon v. Erlanger, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96185 (D CO, July 23, 2015), a Colorado federal magistrate judge recommended that a Messianic Jewish inmate be permitted to proceed against the food services supervisor on his complaint that Passover meals and messianic Jewish diets were prepared without special preparation cleaning of the kitchen area and equipment to meet kosher requirements. A claim against the outside rabbi who advised on kosher standards was dismissed,as was a complaint that Messianic Jews should have been permitted to celebrate Passover on a different date than Jewish inmates.

In Dearwester v. Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96413 (ED CA, July 22, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that  plaintiff,a Christian inmate who believed that the New Testament required his eating a kosher diet, be permitted to move forward with his First Amendment damage claim based on denial of kosher meals.

In Blankenship v. Setzer, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96871 (WD NC, July 23, 2015), a North Carolina federal district court permitted to proceed on his complaint that he was not allowed to take his Bible with him when he was being transported to court in another county, and that his Bible was confiscated for not having a cover.