In Jackson v. Nixon, (8th Cir., March 28, 2014), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision reversing the district court held that an atheist inmate adequately pled that requiring him to complete a substance abuse program with religious content to be eligible for early parole violates the Establishment Clause. Judge Smith dissented arguing that the inmate suffered no punishment when he withdrew from the substance abuse program and other avenues for early parole were available.
In Vega v. Rell, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38199 (D CT, March 24, 2014), a Connecticut federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaints that the prison commissary falsely labeled Jolly Rancher candies as Halal; that cheese on the Common Fare menu was not halal; that prison prayer rugs were dirty; and that he was not allowed to purchase a digital Qur’an or Islamic educational CDs.
In White v. Dooley, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38859 (D SD, March 25, 2014), a South Dakota federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was denied access to certain religious items, hardcover religious books and religious study classes.
In Van Buren v. Coy, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39756 (WD KY, March 26, 2014), a Kentucky federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that he was denied religious services by being placed in segregation.
In Davis v. Michigan Department of Corrections, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38763 (WD MI, March 25, 2014), a Muslim inmate alleged that he suffered food poisoning after eating items from his Ramadan food bag that were left unrefrigerated for many hours, and subsequently he only ate items from his food bag that did not require refrigeration. A Michigan federal district court held that this did not amount to a free exercise violation because, while he may have preferred more or different food, he did not show that this imposed a substantial burden on his free exercise.
In Maloney v. Ryan, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39360 (D AZ, March 25, 2014), an Arizona federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s claim for damages under the free exercise clause finding that defendants had qualified immunity. No legal authority put them on notice that providing Ramadan breakfast before sunrise, rather than before dawn, violated inmates’ constitutional rights. As to injunctive relief, the court gave defendants 30 days to show that their subsequent change in the breakfast policy is permanent.
In Bey v. Virginia, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39636 (ED VA, March 20, 2014), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a complaint by a Moorish American Moslem inmate that he was denied a vegetarian diet, and that in court proceedings, the judge told him to remove his “religious national headdress,” did not use his “free national name,” and called him “black”instead of Moor.
In Plummer v. Riley, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40654 (D SC, March 26, 2014), a South Carolina federal district court adopted most of a magistrate’s recommendations (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42250, Feb. 26, 2014), and permitted a Rastafarian inmate to proceed with his complaint that he must sign up to attend religious services, cannot attend Rastafarian study groups and was suspended from chapel by the chaplain in retaliation for filing a grievance against him for his not allowing Rastafarians to celebrate Kwanza.
In Ballard v. Johns, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41069 (ED NC, March 27, 2014), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a complaint by a Catholic civil detainee held as a sexually dangerous person that he was denied religious services while in administrative segregation.
In Dunn v. Kentucky Department of Corrections, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41640 (WD KY, March 28, 2014), a Kentucky federal district court dismissed a complaint by an Odinist (Astaru) inmate (1) that he is only allowed to buy the Thor’s Hammer medallion that is available from the approved vendor, and it is of poor quality and features Celtic artwork; and (2) he is not permitted to own a set of personal rune stones.