Sunday, July 28, 2013

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In LeBaron v. Spencer, (1st Cir., July 22, 2013), the 1st Circuit permitted a Messianic Jewish inmate to move ahead with his 1st Amendment and RLUIPA challenges seeking a kosher diet, access to a Messianic synagogue and group prayer, but dismissed his equal protection, retaliation and due process conspiracy claims.

In Knight v. Thompson, (11th Cir., July 26, 2013), the 11th Circuit rejected Native American inmates' RLUIPA challenge to Alabama prison system grooming rules that prohibited them from wearing long hair as required by their religion. The court held that the short-hair policy for male inmates is the least restrictive means of furthering compelling governmental interests in security, discipline, hygiene and safety.

In Nelson v. Jackson, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102121 (SD OH, July 18, 2013), an Ohio federal magistrate judge recommended allowing a Jewish inmate to proceed with his free exercise, RLUIPA and 8th Amendment claims growing out of his complaint that while in the kosher meal program he was served meat and dairy together at the same meal and was required to cook his meal on the Sabbath. The court however denied plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction.

In Green v. Dart, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103182 (ND IL, July 23, 2013), an Illinois federal district court dismissed a complaint by a maximum security pre-trial detainee that he has been unable to meet with a Baptist minister and attend religious services in a chapel.

In Porter v. Wegman, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103959 (ED CA, July 22, 2013), a California federal magistrate judge recommended granting a preliminary injunction requiring that an inmate be provided a kosher diet during the eight-day period of the Spring 2014 Yahweh Passover Feast of Unleavened Bread.

In Muhammad v. Arizona Department of Corrections. 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104317 (D AZ, July 25, 2013), an Arizona federal district court permitted a Muslim inmate to proceed with his complaints regarding a lack of pre-sunrise meals during Ramadan, denial of a religious diet, and refusal to allow him to openly wear a kufi. A number of other claims were dismissed, including his complaint that he was prohibited from gathering 5 times a day with other Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaah Muslims for prayer.

In Baze v. Parker, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104708 (WD KY, July 25, 2013), a Kentucky federal district court dismissed a death row inmate's complaint about the denial of a pastoral visit to him.

In Jenkins v. Meyers, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105165 (ED WA, July 25, 2013), a Washington federal district court dismissed a Muslim inmate's complaint that prayer oil he ordered was rejected because the vendor he used was no longer an authorized vendor.

In Toland v. Williams, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104440 (SD GA, July 25, 2013), a Georgia federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations (2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105213, June 13, 2013) and dismissed an inmate's complaint that he did not receive religiously-mandated vegan meals.