Monday, November 12, 2007

More Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases-- District and Appellate Courts

In Longoria v. Dretke, (5th Cir., Nov. 9, 2007), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to a Texas prison's grooming policy by a Native American inmate who refused to cut his hair. In rejecting plaintiff's RLUIPA claim, the court concluded that the state's interest in prison security satisfies the compelling interest/ least restrictive means test. The court also rejected First Amendment and Equal Protection challenges to the grooming policy.

In Talbert v. Jabe, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82962 (WD VA, Nov. 8, 2007), a Virginia federal district court rejected an inmate's challenge under the First Amendment and RLUIPA to the classification of the 5% Islamic Nation of Gods and Earths as a Security Threat Group. The court also rejected "an assortment of claims alleging that the preparation and service of food ... does not accord with the dictates of the Common Fare religious diet, which plaintiff receives as a member of the Nation of Islam."

In Murphy v. Missouri Dept. of Corrections, (8th Cir., Nov. 8, 2007), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that district court's denial of a new trial to an inmate claiming that his free exercise rights under the First Amendment and RLUIPA were violated when prison officials denied his request for group worship services for the Christian Separatist Church.

In Kemp v. Woodford, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82013 (ED CA, Nov. 5, 2007), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissal of a prisoner's complaint that he was not allowed to legally change his name to his Muslim name. Plaintiff failed to allege that the change was required by his religion or that his religious exercise was substantially burdened by the refusal. Prison officials permitted him to use his religious name along with his commitment name for mail purposes.

In Naves v. Carlson, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82296 (D UT, Nov. 5, 2007), a Utah federal district court rejected First Amendment and RLUIPA challenges by a Wiccan inmate to confiscation of certain religious books and writings and to his interrogation by authorities regarding his religious beliefs and practices. A prison investigation into a hidden computer disk had revealed it contained both sexually explicit stories and a manuscript by Plaintiff titled "Institutional Book of Shadows."