Prisoner free exercise cases – March 15, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Abernathy v. Strada, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28041 (ED NY, March 6, 2015), a New York federal district court dismissed, primarily for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, a complaint by a former Native American inmate that he was refused a transfer to a correctional facility in which he could have access to a sweat lodge, tobacco for pipe ceremonies, musical instruments and religious literature.

In Rountree v. Clarke, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28511 (WD VA, March 9, 2015), a Virginia federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claim that religious books sent to her were improperly confiscated, but allowed her to move ahead with her claim for injunctive relief growing out of her complaint that she has been prohibited from standing on her prayer rug during count procedures as required by her Buddhist faith.

In Smith v. Cruzen, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28604 (ND C, Feb. 24, 2015), a California federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his complaint that a correctional officer stopped Muslims from engaging in previously-approved group prayer.  A second pro se plaintiff who had filed jointly was dismissed without prejudice, allowing him if he wishes to file a separate action.

In Harris v. Gipson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28609 (ED CA, March 6, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that the prison’s Religious Meat Alternative Program offers halal meat for diner, but only a vegetarian diet for breakfast and lunch.

In Williams v. DeJesus, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29164 (ED VA, March 9, 2015), a Virginia federal district court upheld a prison’s decision to ban an inmate from possessing The Satanic Bible.

In Hailes v. Free, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29409 (SD OH, March 10, 2015), an Ohio federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76127, June 3, 2014) and dismissed a Seventh Day Adventist inmate’s complaint that he was ordered to report for snow duty even though he had religious accommodation papers excusing him.  When he refused, he was placed in segregation.

In Hayles v. Taylor, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29558 (MD GA, March 11, 2015) a Georgia federal magistrate judge dismissed without prejudice an inmate’s conclusory allegation that while in disciplinary segregation he was denied access to religious services.

In Carmichael v. Aguilar, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29990 (ED CA, March 11, 2015), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint over delays in implementing a prison halal diet.