Prisoner free exercise cases – October 5, 2015

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Welch v. Spaulding, (6th Cir., Sept. 30, 2015), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity to prison food service officials who are being sued by a Muslim inmate who claims that his Ramadan meals lacked sufficient caloric value.

In Merrick v. Ryan, 2015 Ariz. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1173 (AZ App., Sept. 24, 2015), an Arizona appeals court dismissed an inmate’s suit claiming he was denied religious materials and practices. The suit asserting state law claims failed to name the state as a defendant.

In Moon v. Garcia, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129291 (SD IL, Sept. 25, 2015), an Illinois federal district court permitted plaintiff, a former federal inmate, to proceed with his claim that authorities created a plan to disrupt authorized religious activities of Muslim inmates.

In Grayson v. Goetting, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129290 (SD IL, Sept. 25, 2015), an Illinois federal district court permitted an African Hebrew Israelite inmate who had taken the Nazirite vow to proceed with his complaint that he was forced to remove his dreadlocks.

In Hudson v. Spencer, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129304 (D MA, Sept. 25, 2015), in a suit by Nation of Islam inmates, a Massachusetts federal district court ordered correctional authorities to  provide plaintiffs access to televised recordings of Jumu’ah services led by an appropriate chaplain whenever an NOI chaplain is unavailable to lead services in person. However the court dismissed complaints about failure to accommodate various other NOI practices relating to fasting and feast sessions, religious attire and “spiritual drilling.”

In Dicks v. Shearin, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129824 (D MD, Sept. 28, 2015), a Maryland federal district court held that a Muslim inmate’s rights may have been infringed when the former warden failed to follow a Department of Corrections policy that assured Muslim inmates fasting during Ramadan received the same caloric intake as non-fasting prisoners.

In Ramadan v. FBOP, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129845 (SD WV, Sept. 28, 2015), a West Virginia federal district court rejected a Muslim inmate’s challenge to the policy of barring congregational prayer, and his complaint that he was prevented for a period of time from bringing a copy of the Noble Quran into the chapel.

In Johnson v. Swibas, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130379 (D CO, Sept. 28, 2015), a Colorado federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations and allowed an inmate to move ahead certain of the defendants with his complaint that he was denied access to kosher meals to which he is not allergic.

In Woodward v. Ali, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130687 (ND NY, Sept. 29, 2015), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendations and denied summary judgment to a Muslim inmate on his complaint that he was removed from the Ramadan meal list.

In Elmore v. Herring, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131348 (ED NC, Sept. 29, 2015), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed complaints by a Muslim inmate regarding a prison’s post-chapel strip-search policy, his allegations that Christian inmates are allowed more services and furnished more resources than Muslim inmates, and his complaint regarding the absence of a Halal diet.