Prisoner free exercise cases – November 2, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Johnson v. Pritchard, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144822 (MD TN, Oct. 26, 2015), a Tennessee federal magistrate judge recommended concluding that a Muslim inmate’s exercise of religion was not substantially burdened when he was denied a special food tray at the Eid ul-Fitr feast because he could not afford to pay for it.

In Brame v. Vaughn, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146113 (SD IL, Oct. 28, 2015), an Illinois federal district court permitted an inmate to move ahead with his claim that the prison chaplain refused to add him to the Passover Commemoration and refused his request for a kosher diet, in retaliation for plaintiff’s previous filing of a lawsuit.

In Tucker v. Livingston, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146482 (ED TX, Oct. 28, 2015), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146731, Oct. 7, 2015) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that authorities did not permit members of Nation of Gods and Earth to congregate separately for religious services. The court found that this is the least restrictive means of preventing NOGE from spreading their supremacist views that promote hate crimes and violence.

In Hunter v. Corrections Corporation of America, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147643 (SD GA, Oct. 30, 2015), a Georgia federal magistrate judge ordered defendant to provide a more adequate response in discovery to an inmate’s request for admission that defendant forces plaintiff to participate in Christianity through mandatory group sessions.

In Cejas v. Brown, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147695 (SD CA, Oct. 30, 2015), a California federal district court permitted a Buddhist inmate to move ahead with his claim that he has not been provided adequate accommodations to properly practice his faith, including access to a chaplain.

In Yah’Torah v. Hicks, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147755 (D NJ, Oct. 29, 2015), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed a pre-trial detainee’s complaint regarding restrictions on reordering fragrant oils for religious purposes, finding that plaintiff had not shown a sincerely held religious belief.