Prisoner free exercise cases – October 29, 2012

In Jensen v. Kline2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151684 (WD WA, Oct. 21, 2012), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151677, Sept. 14, 2012) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that when corrections officers searched his cell, they mishandled, confiscated and destroyed his sacred Native American religious items.

In Barnett v. Bibb County Sheriffs Office2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151814 (MD GA, Oct. 23, 2012), a Georgia federal district court dismissed without prejudice a suit by a pre-rial detainee complaining that jail officials failed to organize and provide religious services for inmates.

In Blum v. Clements2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152115 (D CO, Oct. 22, 2012), a Colorado federal magistrate judge dismissed a suit by a Catholic inmate who alleged that his rights under the free exercise clause and RLUIPA were violated, and that certain prison regulations were overbroad and vague, when officials refused to permit him to keep an image of an adult Jesus being flogged, and several images of baby Jesus in various states of undress.

In Joseph v. Fischer2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152919 (WD NY, Oct. 24, 2012), a New York federal district court permitted an inmate who is a member of Nation of Gods and Earths to proceed with his claim against the Commissioner of the N.Y. Department of Corrections for injunctive relief under the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA. Plaintiff  alleges that authorities confiscated his written materials relating to NGE, prevented NGE members from congregating to talk about NGE, and do not treat NGE the same as other faith groups.

In Ouahman v. Barnes2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153493 (D NH, Oct. 25, 2012), a New Hampshire federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153508, Oct. 1, 2012), and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that he was not furnished a Qur’an or prayer rug, and did not received a special meal schedule for Ramadan.

In Borkholder v. Lemmon2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153970 (ND IN, Oct. 26, 2012), an Indiana federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed with his claim that his rights under the 1st Amendment and RLUIPA were violated when his religious vegan diet was revoked because he ordered Raman Noodles (which includes a meat-based seasoning packet) from the commissary.

UPDATE: On Oct. 24, the ACLU announced a settlement in a suit against Prince County, Washington under which county jail officials have agreed to accommodate religious dietary requests of Muslims and, consistent with jail security, accommodate other religious needs of Muslim inmates. Defendants will also train jail staff on religious freedom issues.