Sunday, August 21, 2016

Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In Aref v. Lynch, (DC Cir., Aug. 19, 2016), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion involving a number of other issues as well, rejected the claim of an inmate convicted of supporting terrorism that he was denied transfer out of the restrictive Communications Management Unit as retaliation for a sermon he gave as part of a Muslim prayer meeting.

In Shaw v. Upton, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107690 (SD GA, Aug. 15, 2016), a Georgia federal magistrate judge recommended that an inmate be allowed to move ahead with most of his claims contending that he was denied meals in accordance with the tenets of his religion. UPDATE: The court adopted the magistrate's recommendations, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128232, Sept. 20, 2016.

In Thomas v. Lawler, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108143 (MD PA, Aug. 16, 2016), a Pennsylvania federal district court held on various grounds that a Muslim inmate's rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act were not infringed when Friday Jumu'ah services were held in the multi-faith chapel accessible only by walking four flights of steps.

In Sanford v. Madison County, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108734 (SD IL, Aug. 17, 2016), an Illinois federal district court dismissed some, but not all, defendants in a suit by a Muslim jail inmate complaining that he was denied Jumu'ah prayer services and was denied religious counseling on a equal basis with Christian inmates.

In Ryan v. Graham, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108976 (ND NY, Aug. 17, 2016), a New York federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations and dismissed an inmate's complaint over rules that limited him to having eleven religious books at one time.

In Epps v. Hein, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109247 (SD GA, Aug. 17, 2016), a Georgia federal magistrate judge allowed an inmate to proceed with his RLUIPA challenge to the denial of a Rastafarian diet.

In Deangelis v. Cowels, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109785 (D CT, Aug. 18, 2016), a Connecticut federal district court dismissed, with leave to amend, an inmate's complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when his religious gold cross and gold necklace were taken from him and subsequently lost.

In Brown v. Cox, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110284 (ED CA, Aug. 18, 2016), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate's complaint that his free exercise rights were infringed when he was denied access to his religious beads and cross while temporarily in administrative segregation.

In White v. Baker, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110873 (D NV, Aug. 19, 2016), a Nevada federal district court allowed an inmate to move ahead with his suit seeking a "sacred Heraklean diet" (high protein natural and organic cuisine) and the right to possess two religious rings and a necklace, but dismissed his claims seeking group worship and official recognition of his religion.

In Carey v. Mason, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110879 (MD AL, Aug. 18, 2016), an Alabama federal magistrate judge, among other issues, dismissed a Buddhist inmate's complaint that the warden tore up his bible (Diamond Sutra) and threw it in the trash.