Saturday, December 16, 2006

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Buckley v. Alameida, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87579 (ED CA, Dec. 4, 2006), plaintiff was a black Orthodox Jew incarcerated in California Correctional Instutition. He claimed that his free exercise rights were violated when prison officials confiscated his kosher food package in retaliation for his filing a citizen's complaint against a correctional officer. A federal magistrate judge recommended that his free exercise and equal protection claims be dismissed, but that his retaliation claim based on this incident move ahead. He claimed that in a separate incident his menorahs, candles and radio were confiscated, depriving him of his ability to celebrate Hanukkah. The court found that his claim of intentional religious discrimination growing out of this incident could also move forward.

In Bell v. Dretke, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89376 (SD TX, Oct. 23, 2006), a Texas federal Magistrate Judge recommended rejection of a prisoner's claim that his free exercise rights were violated. The prisoner, who was under a cell restriction disciplinary sanction, was not permitted to attend eve of Ramadan services nor served a "fasting meal".

In Bilal v. Lehman, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89430 (WD WA, Dec. 8, 2006), a federal district court dismissed on the grounds of mootness and immunity a former Muslim prisoner's claim that his rights were violated when prison authorities refused to provide him with a Halal diet. The court said, however, that "Defendants should not construe the court's ruling ... as a license to ignore future dietary requests from inmates with sincerely held religious beliefs."

In Muhammad v. McDonough, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89439 (MD FL, Dec. 8, 2006), a Florida federal district court dismissed a prisoner's complaint that his First Amendment rights were violated when prison officials refused to change his name in his official records to his new religious name. Prison policy called for the adding of his new name to his identification tag, but not for its use for other purposes.

In Moore v. Camp, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89986 (MD FL, Dec. 13, 2006), a Florida federal district court permitted a Muslim prisoner to proceed against several defendants on his claims that his free exercise rights were violated by the removal of a prayer towel as contraband, a delay in furnishing him a Quran, and his not receiving a diet in conformance with his Muslim beliefs.

In McDonald v. Schuffman, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90004 (ED MO, Dec. 13, 2006), a Missouri federal district court dismissed a suit by civilly committed residents of the Missouri Sexual Offender Treatment Center. One of plaintiffs' claims was that their right to free exercise of religion was violated by MSOTC's policy on what items are allowable and because there is a lack of religious service offerings.