Prisoner free exercise cases – March 19, 2018

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Ralston v. Cannon, (10th Cir., March 13, 2018), the 10th Circuit held it could not review in an interlocutory appeal on qualified immunity the district court’s conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable juror to find that defendant intentionally interfered with plaintiff’s right to free exercise by denying his kosher diet request.

In Roberts v. Perry, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39596 (WD NC, March 9, 2018), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed with leave to amend an inmate’s complaint that he was prevented from enrolling in the Messianic Faith Group to begin a weekly educational class, and that his mail (including religious correspondence and books from unauthorized sources) was stopped and another book was seized as contraband.

In Ward v. Rice, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39884 (WD AR, March 12, 2018), an Arkansas federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his complaint that prison policy bars the use of prayer rugs without alternatives being provided.  The court dismissed claims regarding the inmate’s food tray and temporary denial of his Quran.

In Crowe v. Marquis, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40062 (ND OH, March 12, 2018), an Ohio federal district court dismissed a Native American inmate’s complaint that his prayer pipe was lost or stolen and that he was misinformed that prison policy would allow his family to send him tobacco.

In Venkataram v. Bureau of Prisons, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39504 (SD FL, March 9, 2018), a Florida federal district court adopted in part a magistrate’s recommendation (2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40075, Jan. 16, 2018) and dismissed an inmate’s attempt to obtain a vegetarian diet that complies with Hindu religious requirements.

In Ali v. Eckstein, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40878 (ED WI, March 13, 2018), a Wisconsin federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to move ahead with his claim for nominal and punitive damages against one defendant growing out of the omission of plaintiff from the list to participate in the Ramadan meal bag program.

In Jones v. Finco, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41191 (WD MI, March 13, 2018), a Michigan federal district court, adopting a magistrate’s recommendation, dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint about the food served to him during Ramadan.

In Mares v. LePage, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41907 (D CO, March 13, 2018), a Colorado federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140796, Aug. 31, 2017) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint regarding impediments to changing his religious designation to Judaism, receiving kosher meals, a personal Torah and a visiting rabbi.

In Sangraal v. Godinez, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41952 (SD IL, March 13, 2018), an Illinois federal district court awarded $1 nominal damages to a former inmate who followed pagan beliefs who challenged prisons’ banning the pentacle, limiting the use of tarot cards, requiring additional screening of pagan literature, and subjecting him to religious messages in the chapel.