Prisoner free exercise cases – November 03, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Fulbright v. Jones, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154414 (WD OK, Aug. 29, 2013), an Oklahoma federal magistrate judge, recommending rejection of a contempt petition, found that authorities had reasonably complied with a previous injunction requiring them to provide a Jewish inmate with a kosher diet.

In Perrilla v. Fischer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154449 (WD NY, Oct. 24, 2013), a New York federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was not permitted to attend congregate religious services while in the Special Housing Unit, and that he was denied or given ill-prepared Halal meals during Ramadan.

In McDaniel v. Fizer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 154965 (D AZ, Oct. 29, 2013), an Arizona federal district court denied without prejudice a Muslim inmate’s petition for a preliminary injunction to require a change in his religious diet so it will also satisfy his health needs (by substituting other food for raw cabbage).

In Calhoun-El v. Stouffer, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155108 (D MD, Oct, 28, 2013), a Maryland federal district court dismissed complaints by an inmate who is a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America that his headdress was confiscated on four occasions, that his ability to participate in the Ramadan fast was interfered with, and that his request to celebrate his religious holiday was denied.

In Blackwell v. Green, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155181 (D MD, Oct. 20, 2013), a Maryland federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaints regarding shower schedules and medication and ice distribution that allegedly interfered with his obligations surrounding Friday prayer and Ramadan. It also dismissed his claim that he was harassed by someone writing “Jesus” on his cell door.

In Redd v. Lutgen, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155252 (ND IA, Oct. 28, 2013), an Iowa federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate’s claim that his religious exercise was substantially burdened when he was required to sign a Ramadan Agreement as a condition of participating in the Eid feast.

In Nosair v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155309 (SD IL, Oct, 30, 2013), an Illinois federal district court permitted a Sunni Muslim inmate of Arab descent to proceed with his equal protection claim that he was confined in restrictive conditions because of his race and religion. However his claim of discriminatory treatment of certain Muslim inmates in halfway house placement was dismissed.

In Sleighter v. County of Kent, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156113 (WD MI, Oct. 31, 2013), a Michigan federal district court permitted a Jewish inmate to proceed against the county and its sheriff on claims that his need for a kosher diet was not adequately accommodated and that the jail favored Christianity over other religions by scheduling Christian religious services in the common living areas, setting aside a section of the called the “God Pod,” encouraging conversion to Christianity, and not accommodating other religions.

In Rivera v. Byars, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156681 (D SC, Oct. 31, 2013), a South Carolina federal district court rejected a magistrate’s recommendation and held that a former inmate of the Rastafarian faith can proceed on his free exercise claim for damages alleging that he was not provided an adequate vegetarian diet consistent with his religious faith.