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Thursday, December 03, 2020

Lethal religion

The Third Circuit held in an unpublished opinion that a Delaware prison did not violate RLUIPA or the First Amendment in denying a Jewish prisoner the use of teffilin (leather boxes connected by long leather straps). The maximum-security prisoner has a history of mental illness, being violent, threatening suicide, and smuggling contraband. Teffilin might allow him to smuggle contraband in the boxes or to harm himself or others with the straps and the prison could not divert the resources and manpower necessary to monitor his use. A dissenting opinion argued that RLUIPA requires the state to show more than inconvenience, including that it would be impossible (not merely inconvenient) to authorize the additional overtime and work hours necessary to supervise the plaintiff while he prays.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 3, 2020 at 08:49 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


Interesting case. It is not really about inconvenience of course, but rather, the prison, couldn't provide more details, about the operational model and accommodations needed, barring him so, from allocating personnel for his morning prayer each day. Or, that the situation is such, that even greater cost (as required apparently by the RLUIPA) wouldn't do it. I quote the dissenting:

"By its text, RLUIPA acknowledges that compliance with its mandate “may require a government to incur expenses in its own operations to avoid imposing a substantial burden on religious exercise.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-3(c). Thus, crediting the prison’s assessment that the diversion of two guards would critically compromise the safety and security of the prison, see Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 722–23 (2005), the prison must still establish that it cannot otherwise provide the staffing needed for Watson’s request. See, e.g., Yellowbear v. Lampert, 741 F.3d 48, 59 (10th Cir. 2014) (Gorsuch, J.) (vacating summary judgment when a prison demonstrated only that its denial of a religious accommodation was due to “some marginal cost it consider[ed] too high” and not to an “inability to provide adequate security at any price”)."

And more:

"But here, the prison does not explain why it cannot accommodate Watson’s request through some other staffing model or budgetary approach."

By the way, the link it seems, leads noway. Here to the ruling:



Posted by: El roam | Dec 3, 2020 10:22:36 AM

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