Prisoner free exercise cases – June 22, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Abdul-Aziz v. Ricci, (3d Cir, June 16, 2014), the 3rd Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Muslim inmate’s complaint that Muslim inmates were served vegetarian meals while donated meals with Halal meat were refused, and that he was not permitted to have prayer oil in his cell. Dismissal of his complaints of retaliation were also affirmed.

In Cotton v. Cate, (9th Cir., June 16, 2014), the 9th Circuit reversed the dismissal of a Shetaut Neter inmate’s RLUIPA claim for a Kemetic diet, holding that the government had not adequately shown there was not a less restrictive alternative to denying plaintiff’s food request.

In Ali v. Wingert, (10th Cir., June 19, 2014), the 10th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he had problems with his mail being processed when it contained only his religious name without also including his committed name.

In Stigler-El v. Stilwell, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79939 (SD IN, June 11, 2014), an Indiana federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claim of discrimination against his Moorish precepts of Islamism, but with leave to show why judgment should not issue.

In Alexander v. Michigan, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79271 (WD MI, June 11, 2014), a Michigan federal district court, although dismissing a number of defendants on immunity grounds, permitted an inmate to proceed against the warden, the chaplain and the state on his complaint that authorities refused to recognize separately and accommodate the practices of the Ismaili branch of the Moorish Science Temple.

In Oram v. Linderman, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78836 (D AZ, June 9, 2014),an Arizona federal district court dismissed complaints of an inmate who is a gentile practitioner of Torah Observant Messianic Judaism that weekly religious services are limited to 60 minutes (instead of the 3 hours he requested) and that there are limits on the size of prayer shawls.

In West v. Grams, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82030 (WD WI, June 16, 2014), a Wisconsin federal magistrate judge amended his former order that improperly dismissed a Muslim inmate’s RLUIPA claim for injunctive relief on qualified immunity grounds, and instead dismissed it on mootness grounds because plaintiff has been transferred to a new prison. The underlying claim related to availability of religious services and alleged retaliation.

In Desmond v. Phelps, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81874 (D DE, June 16, 2014), a Delaware federal district court denied a motion for injunctive relief by inmates who claimed discrimination against Catholics in access to religious services, religious leaders and accommodation of various religious practices after certain Catholic volunteers were banned from the facility.

In Evans v. Godinez, 2014 IL App (4th) 130686-U (IL App., June 18, 2014), an Illinois state appellate court upheld a prison’s refusal to provide study groups and prayer services for Nation of Islam inmates.