Sunday, May 05, 2013

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Grissom v. Werholtz, (10th Cir., May 1, 2013), the 10th Circuit rejected an inmate's complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when, in order to keep his Celtic cross, he was required to change his religious preference from Catholic to Protestant.

In Strother v. Myers, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59574 (ED CA, April 24, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate's complaints that  prayer oil was limited to two ounce bottles; the Kufi prayer cap could be worn only to and from services; and the ban on Muslims holding prayer services in the chapel without a staff member present.

In United States v. Bastien, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59615 (ED NY, April 19, 2013), a New York federal district court, by way of a lengthy footnote in its decision, held that an inmate had failed to show that the free exercise his Santeria religion was substantially burdened when he was not provided a hut, herbs, incense, and a designated space and time to build a bonfire for religious worship.

In McKenzie v. Riley, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60367 (MD AL, April 29, 2013), an Alabama federal district court rejected an inmate's claim that the Alabama Community Notification Act violated his free exercise rights when a church refused him membership on the basis of his status as a convicted sex offender.

In Chau v. Young, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62291 (ND CA, April 30, 2013), a California federal district court permitted an inmate to proceed against the chaplain and members of the prison religious review committee with his complaint that he was improperly removed from the Muslim religious service list. Prison officials claimed he was a member of a disruptive and violent group.

In Kleinfeldt v. Gore, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62494 (SD CA, May 1, 2013), a California federal district judge rejected an inmate's claim that his free exercise and RLUIPA rights were infringed when he was served inedible kosher meat.

In Cauthen v. Rivera, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62472 (ED CA, April 30, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge permitted a Rastafarian inmate to proceed on his free exercise and RLUIPA claims complaining that his request that a body cavity search be conducted outside the view of female officers was refused and his clothes were forcibly cut away so the search could be performed.

In Dayson v. Caruso, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62802 (WS MI, May 2, 2013), a Michigan federal district court rejected a free exercise complaint that Native American prisoners were not allowed to possess tobacco and matches in their personal property and were not allowed to engage in smudging in their cells. It also held that RLUIPA does not authorize damage claims against officials in their individual capacities.

In United States v. Hamrick, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63095 (ED VA, May 1, 2013), a Virginia federal district court rejected an inmate's attempt to have prison authorities recognize only his adopted Coptic Orthodox Christian name, and also refused to change his name on his judgment and commitment order.

In Whitman v. Washington Department of Corrections, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63116 (WD WA, May 1, 2013), a Washington federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63084, March 20, 2013) and dismissed a Muslim inmate's complaints, holding that Defendants cannot be held liable under RLUIPA for monetary damages and that any request for injunctive relief under RLUIPA is moot because issues relating to the Ramadan meals and vegetarian supplemental snacks were resolved. Plaintiff's complaint about the timing of the Eid-al-Fitr feast was dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.