Prisoner Free Exercise Cases – July 8, 2012

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Baker v. Buckner2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90443 (D CO, June 29, 2012), a Colorado federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.D. Dist. LEXIS 90502, May 15, 2012) and dismissed with leave to amend a Muslim inmate’s claim that his free exercise rights were violated when his religious pictures, Bible, Qur’an, prayer rug, and other books were confiscated. His due process claims as to the confiscation were dismissed with prejudice.

In Johnson v. Heyns2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90968 (WD MI, July 2, 2012), a Michigan federal district court dismissed claims against some defendants, but permitted an inmate to proceed against others, in his claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when documents containing prayers, myths and depictions of his Mexica-Aztec religion were confiscated and when he and others were no longer be permitted to conduct their prayer circle using the Nahuatl language.

In Young v. Hooks2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91740 (SD GA, July 2, 2012), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation and allowed an inmate to proceed against the warden (but dismissed the Attorney General as a defendant) in a claim that plaintiff was not allowed to have certain sacred items that are necessary to perform rituals and ceremonies.

In Wallace v. Miller2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91295 (SD IL, March 5, 2012), an Illinois federal magistrate judge recommended allowing an inmate to proceed on RLUIPA and free exercise claims against a Department of Corrections contract Rabbi. Plaintiff alleged that he had converted to an orthodox form of Judaism, but was unsuccessful in obtaining religious items, dietary services, opportunities to fast, worship, observe religious holidays, and receive religious instruction. Apparently defendant rabbi did not consider plaintiff to be Jewish.

In Pettiford v. Davis2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92020 (SD IN, July 3, 2012), an Indiana federal district court dismissed the RLUIPA and free exercise claims of plaintiff who, while held in home detention, was disciplined for drug use violations by being confined at home. Plaintiff had claimed his religious rights were violated because during this period he was not permitted to attend church services.

In Anello v. Williams2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90615 (D OR, June 28, 2012), an Oregon federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90599, March 20, 2012) and dismissed claims by a Native American inmate who is a Thelemite, who argues that his 1st Amendment and RLUIPA rights were infringed. While he was on STM cell restriction for 6 days, plaintiff’s religious materials were confiscated and he was denied access to religious services.