Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Wakefield v. Indermill, (9th Cir, Dec. 18, 2014), the 9th Circuit affirmed dismissal of an inmate's complaint that he was denied weekly communion and foot washing services in the security housing unit.

In Presley v. Scott, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172742 (ND AL, Dec. 15, 2014), an Alabama federal district court, while dismissing a number of plaintiff's claims, allowed an inmate to proceed against certain of the defendants for seizing and destroying his medicine bag and other religious items.

In Johnson v. Lewis, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173411 (WD NC, Dec. 16, 2014), a North Carolina federal district court held that a Hebrew Israelite inmate seeking a kosher diet can move ahead with claims for injunctive relief against defendants in their official capacities, but dismissed damage and individual capacity claims.

In Surles v. Cater, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174236 (SD GA, Dec. 17, 2014), a Georgia federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendation and dismissed an inmate's claim that his free exercise and equal protection rights were infringed when on one occasion he was denied a pre-Ramadan meal.

In Ben-Levi v. Brown, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175040 (ED NC, Dec. 18, 2014), a North Carolina federal district court upheld enforcement of a prison's rule that Jewish Bible study with fewer than ten participants must be led by a rabbi.

In Smith v. Perlman, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175341 (ND NY, Dec. 18, 2014), a New York federal district court dismissed an inmate' complaint that the number of Islamic holy days designated as family events was reduced from 2 to 1; he was denied attendance at congregate religious services while in keeplock; and that his request to incorporate halal meats into his therapeutic diet was refused.

In Pickering v. California Department of Corrections, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175656 (ED CA, Dec. 18, 2014), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate's complaint that authorities have hindered his practice of his Asatru/Odinic faith in numerous ways including denial of chapel times on a few occasions, denial of outdoor worship space and of various items needed for worship.

A suit was filed this week in an Ohio federal district court on behalf of a Muslim woman who alleges that, over her objections, she was forced to attend Christian prayer services while serving a 60-day sentence in the Cuyahoga County (OH) jail. reports on the lawsuit. (Full text of complaint in Majeed v. Cuyahoga County, (ND OH, filed 12/18/2014)). [Thanks to Matthew Besser for the lead.]