Prisoner free exercise cases – November 30, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Woods v. McClure, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 158973 (ED TX, Nov. 24, 2015), a Texas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159291, Sept. 30, 2015) and dismissed a Rastafarian inmate’s complaint that he was not permitted to properly celebrate the Rastafarian holy day, the birthday of Haile Selassie.

In Trapp v. Roden, (MA Sup. Jud. Ct., Nov. 23, 2015), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the closure of a Wampanoag Tribal sweat lodge at a Massachusetts prison facility, purportedly because of health concerns over the smoke it produced, violated RLUIPA as well as a 2003 settlement agreement. MassLive reports on the decision.

PennLive reports that on Tuesday, a Middle District of Pennsylvania federal district court judge, in a case on remand from the 3rd Circuit ordered the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to comply with a June settlement agreement that requires Camp Hill prison authorities to allow Christian inmates 30 minutes of fellowship and group prayer in the dining hall on Christmas after the mainline Christmas dinner has been served and other prisoners have left.