Prisoner free exercise cases – June 7, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Howard v. Joyce Meyer Ministries, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70768 (ED WI, June 1, 2015), a Wisconsin federal district court allowed a Therevedan Buddhist inmate to move ahead with complaints that a picture of Jesus was displayed on the library wall; gift bags containing hygiene products included Bible passages; the TV channel carrying inmate announcements had Christian radio audio; and a religious necklace he ordered was classified as contraband.

In Williams v. Leonard, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72070 (ND NY, June 4, 2015), a New York federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with RLUIPA claims for injunctive relief regarding length of pants and family participation in Eid el-Adha, but dismissed his equal protection and damages claims.

In Anderson v. Olson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72595 (WD WI, June 4, 2015), a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed a Nation of Islam inmate’s claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when officials threw out his copy of the Qur’an along with other books of his that were over the limit for the number of allowable books, rather than mailing them out to his family. However he was allowed to proceed on his due process claim.

In Furnace v. Gipson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72570 (ED CA, June 3, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge recommended permitting an inmate who practiced Shetaut Neter to proceed with his claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was unable to change his name or obtain items needed to practice his religion, particularly an ankh, a prayer mat, cleansing oil, and various dried fruits.

In Prim v. Jackson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72721 (SD OH, June 4, 2015), an Ohio federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (see prior posting) and permitted a Natsarim (Messianic Jewish) inmate to move to an evidentiary hearing on his request for a preliminary injunction regarding Sabbath services, recognition of plaintiff’s religious calendar, sack meals on Friday night for the Sabbath and retaliation for filing grievances.

In Kalican v. Dzurenda, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 72917 (D CT, June 5, 2015), a Connecticut federal district court denied an inmate’s motion for rehearing on his complaint that on one occasion he was barred from carrying his kufi to the dining hall in his pocket.

In Amaker v. Goord, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73133 (WD NY, June 5, 2015), a New York federal magistrate judge held that absent accompanying physical injury, under federal statutory law an inmate cannot recover compensatory damages for denial of access to religious services while in special housing unit.  However the court awarded $1 nominal damages. It also granted plaintiff’s request for a specific witness on a separate claim for punitive damages.

In Freeman v. Arpaio, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71870 (D AZ, June 2, 2015), an Arizona federal district court dismissed with leave to amend using the proper court-approved form an atheist inmate’s complaint that the Establishment Clause is violated by patriotic and religious songs that are played every morning and evening on the jail’s televisions.