Prisoner free exercise cases – March 23, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Tennyson v. Carpenter, (10th Cir., March 18, 2014), the 10th Circuit held that a federal district court wrongly dismissed as frivolous a Christian inmate’s RLUIPA, 1st Amendment and retaliation claims growing out his suspension from the prison’s “Praise Team” choir after choir music binders he kept in his cell were confiscated, and he filed a grievance over the incident.

In Oliver v. Harner, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34137 (SD IL, March 17, 2014), an Illinois federal district court permitted an African-American inmate to proceed with his free exercise and equal protection complaints that the Caucasian chaplain and Caucasian warden denied him a kosher diet that conforms to African Hebrew Israelite beliefs. However the court denied a temporary restraining order and dismissed without prejudice plaintiff’s conspiracy claims.

In Halloum v. Ryan, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35077 (D AZ, March 18, 2014), an Arizona federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was denied a religious shaving waiver. A number of other claims were dismissed, including complaints that the chaplain rejected donated copies of the Qur’an and Muslim inmates were denied communal prayer on two mornings during Ramadan.

In Browning v. Seifert, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35232 (ND WV, March 18, 2014), a West Virginia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35237, Jan. 28, 2014) and allowed an Orthodox Jewish inmate to proceed against most of the defendants on his complaint that he was denied him a kosher diet, the ability to wear religious apparel, and the right to worship weekly and on special holidays.

In Irby v. Cain, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35419 (MD LA, March 17, 2014), a Louisiana federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35123, Feb. 19. 2014) and dismissed an inmate’s claim that he was retaliated against for refusing to attend a religious call-out at prison. The court concluded that the action taken against the inmate was merely de minimis adverse action.

In Roberts v. Schofield, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35222 (MD TN, March 18, 2014), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge refused to grant preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of a vegan-type Kosher diet in Tennessee prisons.

In Bush v. Donovan, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35325 (SD CA, March 17, 2014), a California federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that, among other things, he was denied a Qur’an and hindered in the practice of his Muslim faith.

In Long v. Stanislaus County Superior Court, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35407 (ED CA, March 17, 2014), a California federal magistrate judge, relying on 11th Amendment immunity, dismissed (with leave to amend) an inmate’s claim against a state court for forcing him to violate his religious objections to participating in psychology. The state court had ordered him to be evaluated by psychologists, given medication and placed in a mental hospital.