Prisoner free exercise cases – March 19, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Kyles v. Chartier, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32623 (D SC, March 13, 2014), a South Carolina federal district court upheld prison authorities’ decision to permit an inmate to keep only 5 of his 19 books which he claimed he needed for a religious correspondence course.

In Gadsden v. Carpenter, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32660 (D NV, March 13, 2014), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32662, Jan. 29, 2014) and dismissed plaintiffs’ claim that the flattening of religious grounds used by pagan inmates violated their free exercise rights. The court also rejected claims that officials retaliated against plaintiffs for filing grievances regarding the destruction of the pagan grounds.

In Pagan v. Westchester County, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33408 (SD NY, March 12, 2014), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33066, Feb. 3, 2014), and, while dismissing a number of claims, permitted inmates to move forward on (1) a complaint by Catholic inmates that they were no longer allowed to attend mass after they switched their religious designations in order to get kosher food merely because other food was undercooked and insufficient in amount; and (2) complaints by Muslim inmates that halal meals were undercooked and served on moldy trays, and the only alternative offered was a bologna sandwich that is in violation of religious dietary rules.

In Pino v. Ladd, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33858 (ED CA, March 14, 2014), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a Native American inmate’s complaint that during a search of the Native American sweat lodge, authorities destroyed the fire pit, sacred mound, prayer ties and “nests of baby migratory birds.”

In Cooper v. New Hampshire State Prison, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33875 (D NH, March 13, 2014), a New Hampshire federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that on two occasions he was served meals that contained pork.