Prisoner free exercise cases – September 21, 2014

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Williams v. Lemmon, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129217 (SD IN, Sept. 16, 2014), an Indiana federal district court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies a Muslim inmate’s complaint about a 30-day suspension of Jumah services.

In Grohs v. Santiago, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130139 (D NJ, Sept. 17, 2014 ( NJ, Sept. 17, 2014), a New Jersey federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate’s complaint that he had to dispose of religious material because of lack of storage space.

In Brown v. Mathena, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130574 (WD VA, Sept. 16, 2014), a Virginia federal district court dismissed various complaints by a Nation of Islam inmate that the Common Fare diet does not give him nutritional food that meets his religious dietary requirements.

In Martz v. Sci-Coal Twp. Therapeutic Community, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130823 (MD PA, Sept. 18, 2014), a Pennsylvania federal district court dismissed an inmate’s claim that his rights under the Establishment Clause were infringed when he was denied parole because he did not complete a substance abuse program allegedly religious in nature.

In Cowart v. Allen, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130693 (MD AL, Sept. 18, 2014), an Alabama federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommenation (2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131149, Aug. 26, 2014) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint that prison policy denies tobacco use during Native American religious ceremonies, that guards interrupt ceremonies, limit access to fires and a sweat lodge, allow gang members on sacred ground and that the chaplain desecrated his religious objects.

In Short v. Martyn, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131352 (WD MI, Sept. 19, 2014), a Michigan federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed on a retaliation claim (but not a free exercise claim) against a corrections officer who fired plaintiff from his prison job after he attended a non-denominational Christian conference.

In Green v. Beck, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131647 (ED NC, Sept. 9, 2014), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a former inmate’s complaints about the handling of his request for recognition  of his religious name. He was ultimately issued a new identifcation card.

In Powers v. Clarke, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131886 (ED VA, Sept. 17, 2014), a Virginia federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that authorities refused to recognize Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters) as a religion and instead have classified it as a gang and restricted distribution of its literature.