Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Denial of Name Change Did Not Burden Inmate's Free Exercise

In In re the Application of: Hollis John Larson for a Change of Name, (MN App, Dec. 30,2019), a Minnesota state appellate court upheld a trial court's denial of a name change petition from an inmate who has been indeterminately civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program as a sexually dangerous person. Petitioner sought to change his name to "Better Off Dead."  He claimed his religious belief involving Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Agnosticism motivates his petition. He contended that he believes to achieve reconciliation with the divine he must escape the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth by being and remaining dead. In rejecting petitioner's free exercise claim, the appeals court said said that the trial court had concluded that petitioner's asserted religious belief was not sincerely held and "state regulation cannot burden an insincere belief." Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on the decision. The court also rejected petitioner's free speech claim.