Prisoner free exercise cases – March 22, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Bolds v. Cavazos, (9th Cir., March 20, 2015), the 9th Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed an inmate’s free exercise claim because he failed to allege facts showing that the confiscation of his television substantially burdened the practice of his religion.

In Rojas v. Heimgartner, (10th Cir., March 20, 2015), the 10th Circuit upheld a prison policy barring Native American inmates from wearing colored bandannas outside of group religious worship services.

In Prim v. Jackson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32004 (SD OH, March 16, 2015), an inmate alleged he was prevented from celebrating the Passover seder, that inadequate security in the Chapel for female staff caused it to be closed from Friday night to Saturday night, and he was denied kosher meals.  A federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing some of the claims against certain of the defendants.

In Marshall v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32773 (MD PA, March 17, 2015), a Pennsylvania federal magistrate judge upheld a prison’s refusal to provide separate congregate religious services for Nation of Islam adherents, limiting them to worshiping with Sunni Muslims.

In Brock-Butler v. Parker, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33402 (WD KY, March 18, 2015), a Kentucky federal district court, in a case primarily about the use of excessive force against an inmate, permitted plaintiff to also proceed with a free exercise claim that he was forced to shave his head to treat a gash that resulted from his being Tasered.

In Williams v. Wilkinson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34172 (ED OK, March 19, 2015), an Oklahoma federal district court dismissed, for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, an inmate’s complaint that Muslim communal religious services were suspended. It dismissed on the merits plaintiff’s complaint that he had been denied a kosher diet.

In Shepherd v. Fischer, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33110 (ND NY, March 18, 2015), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34238, Feb. 23, 2015) and permitted a Rastafarian inmate to proceed against certain defendants on his complaint regarding several interferences with his religious practices.(diet, dreadlocks, religious services).

In Rogers v. Dart, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34464 (ND IL, March 19, 2015), an Illinois federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his complaints regarding religious diet and auditing of his commissary purchases as retaliation for filing a grievance.