Prisoner free exercise cases – June 16, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause 

In Mansfield v. Missouri Department of Corrections, (8th Cir., June 10, 2013), the 8th Circuit held that prison official’s compelling interest in security justified their denial of group worship services for members of the Christian Separatist Church Society.

In Small v. Wetzel, (3d Cir., June 11, 2013), the 3rd Circuit upheld a district court’s dismissal of Muslim inmates’ complaints about a strip search with female prison staff present and one inmate’s complaint about the requirement to sign Guidelines in order to participate in the Ramadan fasting program. However the court did permit plaintiff to proceed  with an equal protection claim for nominal damages based on the prison not requiring Jewish prisoners to sign similar Guidelines to participate in their holy day observances.

In Laurensau v. Romarowics, (3rd Cir., June 13, 2013), the 3rd Circuit upheld removal of an inmate from the kosher diet program because he failed to show a sincerely held religious belief.

In Bucano v. Sibum, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79514 (MD PA, June 6, 2013), a Pennsylvania federal district court agreed with a federal magistrate judge’s recommendation (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188330, Dec. 27, 2012) to dismiss without prejudice the claim by two inmates that being forced to eatnon-Kosher  food, being prohibited from being in the same cell, and being called “fake Jews” by a corrections officer violated their free exercise rights.

In Smith v. Owens, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81198 (SD GA, June 10, 2013), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81416, May 9, 2013) and dismissed a complaint by a Hindu inmate who sought a vegan diet that he is unable to participate in the alternative entree meal plan.

In Chesser v. Rivas, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82223 (SD IL, June 11, 2013), an Illinois federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate at a special federal high security unit to move ahead with religious freedom and other challenges to the ban on Arabic, the ban on shortened pants, imposing participation in receiving special food on non-Muslim holidays, denial of Halal meals for Islamic holidays, failure to provide an imam, and failure to provide food for breaking of religious fasts.

In Ericson v. Magnusson, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82347 (D ME, June 12, 2013), a Maine federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Protestant inmate’s complaint that inmates in protective custody may not attend group religious services outside the unit. as well as complaints about other limitations on practicing his religion.

In United States v. Bowman, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82652 (WD NC, June 12, 2013), a North Carolina federal district court granted an inmate’s motion that both the court and the Bureau of Prisons recognize his newly adopted Islamic name, but only along with the name under which he was committed.

In Allen v. Virga, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82825 (ED CA, June 11, 2013) a California federal magistrate judge permitted an inmate who is an adherent of the House of Yahweh Yahdaim who sought kosher meals which he had been denied because he is not Jewish to proceed on his claim for damages. Plaintiff was also granted leave to file an amended complaint setting out a RLUIPA claim.

In United States v. Zielinski, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81510 (ND NY, June 11, 2013), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82014, May 15, 2013) and revoked defendant’s supervised release program because of his failure to participate in parts of it. The court concluded that the sex offender program did not burden a religious exercise, finding that “Objectivism” is not a religion.

In Maxwell v. Clarke, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83461 (WD VA, June 13, 2013), a Virginia federal district court dismissed claims by a Rastafarian inmate that his rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments and RLUIPA were infringed when he was confined to segregation without permission to attend religious services for refusing to cut his hair as required by the prison’s grooming policy.

In Quinn v. Knab, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82542 (SD OH, June 12, 2013), an Ohio federal district court dismissed an inmate’s religious accommodation claim, finding that the claim for injunctive relief is moot since he was released from prison. It also held he cannot recover damages under RLUIPA from state employees in their personal capacities.