Prisoner free exercise cases – October 07, 2012

In Rodriguez v. Hubbard2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141089 (ED CA, Sept. 28, 2012), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a Native American inmate to proceed with his free exercise and equal protection challenges (but not his RLUIPA claims) to confiscation of his sacred pipe and bag, a medicine bundle, various bird wings and feathers and spiritual necklaces, as well as denial of spiritual counseling that took place at his former prison.

In Rahman v. Fischer2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140455 (ND NY, Sept. 28, 2012), a New York federal district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction an attempt by Shiite inmates to enforce a settlement in an earlier case in a different federal court. It dismissed, but with with leave to amend, plaintiff’s complaint regarding denial of Shiite study classes, books and a locker to store Shiite religious texts.

In Wright v. Hedgepeth2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142035 (ND CA, Sept. 30, 2012), a California federal district court allowed a Muslim inmate to proceed with complaints regarding a religious diet and denial of attendance at various religious services. Plaintiff contends that part of the reason for the problem is prison officials’ reliance upon inaccurate information about Muslim religious requirements provided by the Muslim chaplain who practices a different, non-traditional version of Islam. The court referred the case to the Pro Se Prisoner Settlement Program.

In Womble v. Berghuis2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142704 (WD MI, Oct. 3, 2012), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a number of defendants, but allowed a Buddhist inmate to proceed against two others on claims that he was wrongly removed from the vegan food line for a period of 4 months.

In Clark v. Florida2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142423 (MD FL, Oct. 2, 2012), a Florida federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claim that he was placed in confinement and stripped of his clothing due to his talking in tongues, which he believes is a sign of his “supernatural” spiritual powers.

In Parms v. Harlow2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142382 (WD PA, Oct. 2, 2012), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142381, Sept. 11, 2012) and dismissed a deaf inmate’s claim that his free exercise rights were violated when prison authorities refused to provide him an interpreter so he could understand religious services.

In Jihad v. Fabian2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141272 (D MN, Oct. 1, 2012), a Minnesota federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142519, Sept. 7, 2012) and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s claim that prison authorities have failed to comply with a settlement agreement in an earlier case involving plaintiff’s access to halal meals. The court held the enforcement of the agreement is a matter for state courts.

In Miller v. County of Nassau2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143267 (ED NY, Oct. 3, 2012), a New York federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, a claim that prison authorities favor favor the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Muslim religions over others such as Rastafarian, Santeria, and Native American religions.

In Davis v. Abercrombie2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141568 (D HI, Sept. 30, 2012), an Hawaii federal district court refused to issue a preliminary injunction in a suit by two inmates who were practitioners of the Native Hawaiian religion, one of whose prayer object was confiscated and the other whose prayer object was damaged.

In Williams v. Bedsole2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143148 (MD AL, Sept. 6, 2012), an Alabama federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing, on the basis of qualified immunity, an inmate’s complaint that his religious freedom was infringed when, as part of his participation in the Crime Bill Program, he was forced to stand and face the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

In Palermo v. White2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142515 (D NH, Sept. 4, 2012), a New Hampshire federal magistrate judge recommended allowing an inmate to move ahead with his complaint that the prison chaplain refused to recognize his pagan religion or provide him with a book, religious items or space to practice his religion.