Prisoner free exercise cases – June 15, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Jones v. Conrad, (8th Cir., June 2, 2014), the 8th Circuit upheld the dismissal of an inmate’s complaint that he was denied permission to receive two religious publications sent to him through the mail. He failed to show that the denial substantially burdened his ability to practice his religion.

In Davis v. Abercrombie, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74934 (D HI, June 2, 2014), a Hawaii federal district court refused to reconsider its prior denial of summary judgment to defendants on Native Hawaiian inmates’ complaints that they were denied daily outdoor group worship; and were denied daily access to amulets and bamboo nose flutes. However reconsideration was granted as to inmates’ lack of access to certain other sacred items. The court also dismissed certain claims for prospective equitable relief as moot.

In Porter v. Biter, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77476 (ED CA, June 4, 2014), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a Muslim inmate’s attempt to obtain an order allowing him to change his legal name to a religious name and to use the religious name during normal prison activities such as sending and receiving mail.

In Cole v. Danberg, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77773 (D DE, June 6, 2014), a Delaware federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with many of his claims for injunctive relief growing out of alleged religious discrimination, denial of right to observe Islamic holidays and have congregational prayer, and refusal to allow the Islamic community to raise funds.

In Schlemm v. Frank, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78601 (WD WI, June 10, 2014), a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed, partly on exhaustion and partly on substantive grounds, a complaint by a Native American inmate seeking sweat lodge ceremonies on a weekly basis, a Ghost Feast meal that includes wild game, and the right to wear multicolor headbands. a ribbon shirt, bear-claw jewelry and a personal pipe.

In Lindsey v. Bradley, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78856 (SD IL, June 9, 2014), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Rastafarian inmate to proceed with his complaint that his dreadlocks were forcibly cut.

In Davis v. Hubler, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78835 (ED NC, June 10, 2014), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a complaint by a Nation of Islam inmate that he was not permitted to receive the weekly publication Final Call.

In Glenn v. Wilson, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79303 (ND IN, June 10, 2014), an Indiana federal district court dismissed a complaint by an Eastern Orthodox inmate that he was unable to attend Eastern Orthodox religious services first when he was placed in administrative segregation and then when he was transferred to a prison without Orthodox services.