Wednesday, April 24, 2019

4th Circuit: Inmate Fails To Prove Causation In His RLUIPA And Free Exercise Claims

In Wright v. Lassiter, (4th Cir., April 17, 2019), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Rastafarian inmate's claims that his rights under RLUIPA and the 1st Amendment were infringed when prison officials rejected his request to celebrate four annual religious holidays through communal feasts and three others that do not include feasts. The court, holding that "plaintiff must show that the prison's policies imposed a substantial burden on his exercise of sincerely held religious beliefs," concluded that plaintiff failed to show the required causation:
...Wright’s causation problem stems from the fact that he has requested communal gatherings and feasts. There is no such thing as a community of one, and Wright agreed at oral argument that he was not seeking a feast for himself alone. He therefore had to show that, but for the policies that allegedly prohibit the requested holiday gatherings, other inmates would join in the gatherings.... There was no testimony showing that any other Rastafarian at Central Prison or any other North Carolina prison had joined in his requests to celebrate in the manner he requested or would attend his gatherings if they were held....