Prisoner free exercise cases – March 1, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Pfeil v. Lampert, (10th Cir., Feb. 20, 2015), the 10th Circuit upheld dismissal of an inmate’s complaint that on one occasion a volunteer Catholic minister was not allowed to enter to provide services, and that a prison policy banning hardbound books led to confiscation of his religious books which he could not afford to replace or get with the large type font he needs in softbound form.

In Blair v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20751 (ED CA, Feb. 20, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed (with leave to amend) a Jewish inmate’s claim that his temporary placement with a Muslim cellmate violated his free exercise and RLUIPA rights.

In Harris v. Arpaio, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21802 (D AZ, Feb. 23, 2015), an Arizona federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that his Bible was confiscated and not replaced and that his request for baptismal services, marriage services and weekly religious services was refused.

In Pevia v. Shearin, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21805 (D MD, Feb. 24, 2015), a Maryland federal district court refused to dismiss a complaint by an inmate that Native American religious services were not regularly scheduled and that he was not permitted to participate or have the services broadcast to him when they did take place.

In Johnson v. Pritchard, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22921 (MD TN, Feb. 24, 2015), a Tennessee federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21879, Jan 29, 2015) and allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claims for equitable relief to end a prison policy that precludes indigent inmates from attending Muslim religious feasts when they cannot pay the cost from their personal inmate trust fund accounts.

In Shabazz v. Johnson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21995 (ED VA, Feb. 24, 2015), a Virginia federal district court ordered further briefing on a claim by a Nation of Islam inmate that he has not received a diet consistent with his religious beliefs, but dismissed his complaints of insufficient NOI religious services, not being able to wear bow ties to religious services and being unable to watch Farrakhan sermons on cable television.

In Hodges v. Brown, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22199 (ED NC, Feb. 20, 2015), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a complaint by an Orthodox Messianic Jewish inmate regarding the kosher diet policy and practices, but permitted him to move ahead with his complaint regarding outside volunteer requirement for leading congregate worship services.

In Rossi v. Fishcer, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22348 (SD NY, Feb. 24, 2015), a New York federal district court permitted a Nyahbinghi Rastafarian inmate to proceed with claims regarding recognition of four holy days, scheduling services on the correct day and wearing of a turban.  It dismissed claims regarding family events, holy day menus, spiritual advisers, fundraising proceeds, and reporting of plaintiff’s marijuana use.

In Sims v. Wegman, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22765 (ED CA, Feb. 24, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a Nation of Islam inmate’s complaint that he was denied kosher meals.

In Baumgarten v. Howard County Department of Corrections, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23112  (D MD, Feb. 25, 2015), a Maryland federal district court dismissed a Jewish inmate’s claim that while he was at a detention center his kosher meal requests were inadequately accommodated.