Prisoner free exercise cases – October 28, 2013

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Taylor v. United States, (Ct. Fed. Cl., Oct 25, 2013), the United States Court of Federal Claims dismissed for lack of jurisdiction a claim for damages and injunctive relief brought by an inmate serving a life sentence who claimed his rights were violated when USCIS refused to allow him to renounce his citizenship for religious reasons. USCIS says citizenship can only be renounced when an individual is outside the country.

In Montgomery v. Fondren, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147934 (ND AL, Oct. 15, 2013), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148212, Sept. 4, 2013) and dismissed an inmate’s complaints that his request to see a Volunteer Faith Group Leader andview religious programming were denied,  and that he was placed in disciplinary segregation for preaching even though he received permission from the other prisoners to do so.

In Pannell v. Baserap, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147858 (ED VA, Oct. 10, 2013), a Virginia federal district court dismissed a complaint by a Muslim inmate that he was prohibited from conducting Jum’ah services in Arabic because of a prison rule that only English may be spoken in unsupervised cross-housing unit meetings.

In Trebas v. County of Fresno, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148436 (ED CA, Oct. 11, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a complaint by a state hospital civil detainee that his free exercise rights were infringed when authorities refused his request for religious accommodation of single room housing.

In Hall v. Hehl, 2013 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 148852 (D NC, Oct. 16, 2013), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a claim by a Native American inmate that the handling of his religious property violated his free exercise rights.

In Sharrieff v. Moore, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150320 (MD PA, Oct. 18, 2013) a Pennsylvania federal district court permitted a Nation of Islam inmate to move ahead with a number of his claims growing out of the alleged denial to him of  religious services and annual December fasting accommodations.

In Muhammad v. Shearin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149276 (D MD, Oct. 17, 2013), a Maryland federal district court dismissed a Nation of Islam inmate’s 1st Amendment and RLUIPA challenges to the prison’s refusal to recognize for some purposes plaintiff’s court approved religious name change. However plaintiff was permitted to move ahead with his due process challenge.

In Cottriel v. Jones, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150601 (WD OK, Oct. 21, 2013), an Oklahoma federal district court ordered the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to respond within 14 days to an Orthodox Jewish inmate’s suit to hold authorities in contempt for not fully complying with a 2006 injunction ordering them to provide plaintiff with a kosher diet.

In Barfell v. Winnebago County Jail, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150941 (ED WI, Oct. 21, 2013), a Wisconsin federal district court rejected an inmate’s complaint that while in segregation he was not permitted to attend church services or Bible study, since he could watch church services on TV and meet with the chaplain for individual Bible study.

In Porter v. Biter, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149748 (ED CA, Oct. 16, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was not permitted to change his name to comply with his religious beliefs.  Plaintiff did not allege that he was prohibited from using his religious name along with his committed name.