Prisoner free exercise cases – June 5, 2017

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Ruffin v. Hinkley, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81827 (D ME, May 30, 2017), a Maine federal magistrate judge recommended that a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was served pork on 3 occasions be dismissed but that he be allowed to move ahead with his claim that he was denied various religious material and items while Christian inmates receive religious services.

In Johnson v. Doty, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82179 (SD NY, May 19, 2017), a New York federal district court dismissed with leave to file an amended complaint a suit by a Muslim inmate seeking $1 million in damages and injunctive relief growing out of plaintiff effectively being denied the ability to attend Eid-ul-Adha services in 2014. Plaintiff contended that he suffers from mental anguish, trauma and nightmares of going to hell for missing the observance. The court concluded plaintiff had not alleged personal involvement by any of the named defendants.

In Jackson v. Collins, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82793 (WD MO, May 31, 2017), a Missouri federal district court in rejecting motions to reconsider prior orders held that neither RLUIPA nor the Establishment Clause were violated by the failure of prison authorities to have “Atheism” listed among the choices of religious preference gathered at intake on an inmate’s face sheet. “No Religious Preference,” “Unknown,” and “Other” are among the choices available.

In Adams v. Williams, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81926 (ED AR, May 30, 2017), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83026, April 12, 2017) and dismissed without prejudice an inmate’ suit that merely alleged that he was forcefully denied his religion as a form of punishment.

In Stevens v. Cain, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83889 (MD LA, June 1, 2017), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84013, May 23, 2017), and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that a TB test was forcibly administered after he refused for religious reasons to have the test performed.

In Vincent v. Stewart, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83522 (WD WA, May 31, 2017), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84167, April 17, 2017) and dismissed a suit by a Hare Krishna inmate who sought modification of the Vegetarian Religious Diet to, among other things, add a pint of fresh milk daily which his personal religious beliefs required.

In Carr v. Jackson, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84442 (ND GA, June 1, 2017), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84444, June 1, 2017) and dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he never received responses to his requests for Halal or Kosher meals.