Sunday, June 20, 2010

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Powell v. Raemisch, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57798 (WD WI, June 11, 2010), a Wisconsin federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with free exercise and RLUIPA claims alleging that he was denied Ramadan meal bags for 18 days during Ramadan in 2009.

In Meyer v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59437 (WD WI, June 16, 2010), a Wisconsin federal district court rejected an inmate's free exercise and RLUIPA challenges to the prison's refusal to furnish him an emblem of the "world tree" as a symbol of his claimed religion, Shamanism. The court said plaintiff could have reverted to the classification of Paganism as his religious preference and received a blank Book of Shadows in which he could have drawn a world tree emblem. There was no evidence that this would have been a substantial burden.

In Rosales v. Abbott, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59809 (WD TX, June 16, 2010), a Texas federal magistrate judge recommended rejecting a Muslim inmate's objection that he was not permitted to change his name in accordance with religious practice. The court concluded that the Texas statute barring name changes by felons does not violate plaintiff's free exercise rights.

In Carney v. Hogan, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59440 (ND NY, June 15, 2010), a New York federal district court accepted a magistrate's recommendations (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59439, March 30, 2010) and permitted plaintiff to move ahead with his complaint that the Sex Offender Treatment Program violates his free exercise rights by requiring his participation in faith-based programs as a condition of his release from civil confinement. However the court held that defendants had qualified immunity from damage actions. Only plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief
can proceed.

In Merrell v. Lawler, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60088 (MD PA, June 16, 2010), a Pennsylvania federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with his claim that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was not permitted to attend religious services in the prison chapel.

In Kramer v. Raemisch, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60235 (WD WI, June 16, 2010), a Wisconsin federal district court refused to permit inmates in different Wisconsin prisons who allege various restrictions on their ability to practice Odinism to join their claims in a single lawsuit. They claimed they were denied the right to engage in group religious exercise, to possess various religious items and to consume pork as part of a religious diet and at religious feasts.