Prisoner free exercise cases – September 26, 2016

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Whitney v. Varner, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127018 (MD PA, Sept. 19, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal district court held that where an inmate refused to provide a written indication of his religious preference, prison officials could not be found to have substantially burdened the exercise of his unknown belief.

In Sims v. Frakes, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127229 (D NE, Sept. 19, 2016), a Nebraska federal district court allowed a Native American inmate to proceed on his claim for prospective injunctive relief challenging limitations placed on sweat lodge and Pow Wow ceremonies.

In Windham v. Rodriguez, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127501 (ED CA, Sept. 19, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge rejected a Muslim inmate’s claim that destruction of his Qur’an by a corrections officer substantially burdened his religious exercise, and held that to the extent he is suing for deprivation of property, he has an adequate post-deprivation remedy.

In Gray v. Perkins, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128117 (D NH, Sept. 20, 2016), a New Hampshire federal district court dismissed an inmate’s complaint that in a cell search his Bibles, religious books, and religious pamphlets were seized and not returned.

In Bethel v. Jenkins, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128815 (SD OH, Sept. 21, 2016), an Ohio federal district court, adopting a magistrate’s recommendation, held that an exception that treated religious books shipped to inmates more favorably than other books did not violate the Establishment Clause or equal protection clause.

In Furnace v. Gipson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129156 (ED CA, Sept. 20, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended that an inmate be permitted to file and proceed with his third amended complaint claiming that prison authorities denied him a religious name change and denied his request to purchase religious items.

In Eleby v. Graham, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129831 (ND NY, Sept. 21, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a complaint by a Nation of Islam inmate who objected to a 6-day period during Ramadan where, because of a lockdown, Muslim inmates were not permitted to meet for communal meals or prayer and were provided a bag meal instead of a hot halal meal to break fast at sun up.

In Lewis v. Maye, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129861 (D KS, Sept. 21, 2016), a Kansas federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a suit by a Nation of Islam inmate who contended that the prison chaplain did not consider the NOI holiday of Savior’s Day important enough to be recognized or given precedence over other activities in the multi-faith Life Connections Program.

In Harris v. Escamilla, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130006 (ED CA, Sept. 22, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmates’s complaint that during a cell search a corrections officer stepped on his Qur’an and there was delay in his obtaining a replacement copy.

In Miles v. Guice, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130316 (ED NC, Sept. 23, 2016), a North Carolina federal district court dismissed a suit by a member of Nations of Gods and Earths who wanted group worship, holiday fasting, a vegan diet and written materials, and wanted to possess a medallion or flag.

In Howard v. Foster, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130465 (D NV, Sept. 23, 2016), a Nevada federal district court refused to dismiss an inmate’s complaint about conduct that an officer assigned to oversee Muslim religious services was disruptive and yelled so that inmates were unable to complete their services.