As reported by AP, the U.S. Department of Justice yesterday filed a brief in support of Native American inmates who are challenging South Dakota's ban on their use of tobacco in religious ceremonies. The government's brief (full text), captioned "Statement of Interest of the United States," in Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber, (D SD, filed 7/16/2012), contends that the ban violates inmates' rights protected by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The government argues:
Defendants’ argument that plaintiffs are not substantially burdened by the tobacco ban is, in actuality, a request for a judicial determination of the importance and centrality of tobacco use to the plaintiffs’ religious practice. This determination, however, is explicitly forbidden by RLUIPA and relevant case law, and this court should decline to undertake such a task.