Thursday, June 09, 2022

9th Circuit OK's Refusal To House Muslim Inmate Only With Co-Religionists

 In Al Saud v. Days, (9th Cir., June 8, 2022), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims under RLUIPA and the 1st Amendment brought by a Muslim inmate who sought to be housed only with other Muslim inmates. He contends he is currently unable to pray five times per day as required by his religion because inmates with whom he is now housed harass him when he prays. The court summarized the holding in part as follows:

Al Saud’s RLUIPA claim failed because denying his request to be housed only with Muslims was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. The panel concluded that the outcome of this case was largely controlled by Walker v. Beard, 789 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2015), which held that a prison could deny a prisoner’s religious accommodation when he sought to be housed with only white people. Because both race and religion are suspect classes, the likelihood that equal protection liability would flow from housing prisoners based on religion was substantially identical to the likelihood of liability for housing prisoners based on race and, therefore, was sufficient to serve as a compelling interest.