Prisoner free exercise cases – July 5, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Incumaa v. Stirling, (4th Cir., July 1, 2015), the 4th Circuit rejected a claim by an inmate who is a member of Nation of Gods and Earths that his 20 years in solitary confinement following his participation in a 1995 prison riot with other Five Percenters violates his rights under RLUIPA. However the court held that plaintiff may move to trial on his procedural due process challenge to his continuing solitary confinement.

In Beamon v. Dittmann, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83982 (ED WI, June 29, 2015), a Wisconsin federal district court refused to allow a Block Muslim inmate to add a RLUIPA claim to his complaint because plaintiff only seeks damages that are unavailable under RLUIPA.

In Gray v. Lewis, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84133 (ND CA, June 29, 2015), a California federal district court allowed an inmate to proceed with most of his claims that he was restricted from obtaining a kosher diet and in other ways not provided with the resources to practice his Yahweh religion. The case was referred to the pro-se prisoner mediation program.

In Sessing v. Beard, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84194 (ED CA, June 28, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that an Odinist inmate be allowed to proceed with his equal protection challenge to authorities’ denial to him of access to outdoor space and a fire pit for worship since they were permitting Native American inmates access. However plaintiff’s RLUIPA and free exercise claims were dismissed.

In Clark v. Anderson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84349 (ND TX, June 29, 2015), a Texas federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that one defendant failed to return a spiritual book, requiring him to order another copy from the publisher.

In Sousa v. Wegman, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85208 (ED CA, June 29, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that an inmate be permitted to move ahead with his attempt to obtain recognition of those with Mexican Indian Beliefs as a religious group, and their access to religious services, holiday celebrations and use of a sweat lodge.

In Adler v. Gonzalez, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85210 (ED CA, June 30, 2015), in a suit by a Catholic inmate, a California federal magistrate judge recommended a finding that there are still disputed facts that need to go to trial on whether or not Catholic services were available and whether plaintiff made any attempt to participate in them.

In Shabazz v. Johnson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86787 (ED VA, July 2, 2015), a Virginia federal district court rejected a Nation of Islam inmate’s claim that requiring him to eat the Common Fare diet rather than a strict Nation of Islam diet violated his rights under RLUIPA.