Recent Prisoner Free Exercise Cases

In West v. Palmer, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131109 (ND IA, Aug. 17, 2017), an Iowa federal district court dismissed a suit by a high security inmate at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders who complained that the facility does not offer Pentecostal religious services and he is not allowed to attend services outside the facility.In Anderson v. Cox, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131202 (D NV, Aug. 17, 2017), a Nevada federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Wiccan inmate’s complaint that Wiccans are denied access to incense, herbs and teas, and that a ritual area used by Wiccans was destroyed.  He recommended that plaintiff be allowed to move ahead with his claim of retaliatory cell searches because of his religion.In Brisman v. Quinn, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131523 (ND NY, Aug. 16, 2017), a New York federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing an inmate’s claim that a package containing religious beads was not delivered to him.In Ludwick v. Rubenstein, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130501 (ND WV, Aug. 16, 2017), a West Virginia federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131620, July 14, 2017) and dismissed an inmate’s complaint about removal of religious items from his cell when inmates are on strip cell search.In Thompson v. Mississippi Department of Corrections, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132387 (ND MI, Aug. 17, 2017), a Mississippi federal district court granted a Rastafarian inmate who had been forced to cut his hair an injunction requiring authorities to allow him to grow his hair according to the tenets of his religion.In Ahdom v. Etchebehere, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133380 (ED CA, Aug. 20, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing a Muslim inmate’s complaint that as a vegetarian he was not enrolled in the Religious Meat Alternative program, and that made him ineligible to participate in Ramadan meals (until he was ultimately granted an exception).In Murray v. McKay, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133566 (ED CA, Aug. 18, 2017), a California federal magistrate judge dismissed with leave to amend an inmate’s complaint that as a high security inmate with medical issues he was not allowed to attend any church services.In Fletcher v. Bokinstrke, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133747 (D SC, Aug. 18, 2017), a South Carolina federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134081, July 14, 2017) and dismissed a Muslim inmate’s complaint that on one day during Ramadan, because of a security lock down, he was not served his evening meal until 11:00 pm.In Hansler v. Kelley, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133096 (WD AR, Aug. 21, 2017), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134103, July 20, 2017), and allowed an inmate to move ahead with a number of his claims growing out of the ban on his possessing or reading the Witches’ Craft Wiccan Bible and the Book of Grimoires.In Fisher v. Devore, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136552 (WD AR, Aug.23, 2017), an Arkansas federal district court adopted a magistrate’s recommendation (2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135189, July 26, 2017) and dismissed a Jewish inmate’s complaint that the kosher meals he was served were not prepared in a way that properly adhered to religious dietary laws.UPDATE: In a settlement agreement in Bartlett v. Atencio, (D ID, Aug. 11, 2017), Idaho prisons must offer a Common Fare No Touch menu with a majority of meals that are pre-packaged or double-sealed frozen meals that are koshercertified.

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