Prisoner free exercise cases – March 4, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Dunn v. Catoe, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22252 (ED TX, Feb. 23, 2016), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23148, Jan. 15, 2016) and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaints about policies requiring an outside volunteer at religious services, gang members infiltrating Muslim religious meetings, insufficient food when lock downs occur during Ramadan, and denial of the right to wear a beard.

In Vincent v. Stewart, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23304 (WD WA, Feb. 25, 2016), a Washington federal magistrate judge held that unless a proper amendment is filed, she would dismiss a complaint by a Hare Krshna inmate that he has been unable to obtain fresh milk as part of his diet as required by his religious beliefs.

In Todd v. California Department of Corrections, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23338 (ED CA, Feb. 24, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that an inmate be permitted to proceed with free exercise, Establishment Clause and equal protection claims stemming from refusal to recognize Creativity as a religion, denial of a religious diet and banning of the Holy Books of Creativity.

In Fernandez-Torres v. Watts, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23964 (SD GA, Feb. 26. 2016), a Georgia federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s complaint that he was not allowed to have Santeria Bead Necklaces sent to him by his “spiritual family,” and could only obtain them from an approved vendor.

In Thody v. Ives, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24092 (CD CA, Feb. 25, 2016), a California federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24095, Jan. 5, 2016) and dismissed as not congnizable in a habeas corpus action an inmate’s complaint that members of their non-Judaist, Messianic, Sabbitarian, Zionist belief group have been denied the right to assemble, teach and practice their religion.

In Schlemm v. Wall, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24332 (WD WI, Feb. 29, 2016), a Wisconsin federal district court held that because of disputed issues of material fact, the case should proceed to trial on claims that an inmate’s RLUIPA rights were infringed when he not permitted to serve venison during the annual Native American Ghost Feast; and was prevented from wearing a multicolored bandana while praying or meditating in his cell and during group religious ceremonies.

In Monroe v. Walker, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24475 (D NV, Feb. 26, 2016), a Nevada federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24474, Jan. 11, 2016) and allowed a Muslim inmate to proceed against one of the defendants on his complaint that he was admonished for wearing his religiously approved Kufi and was treated differently than similarly situated Jewish inmates.