Supreme Court Unanimously Rules For Bearded Muslim Inmate Gregory Holt

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Prison Beard Ban Violates Muslim Religious Rights, Supreme Court Rules.

WASHINGTON The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously struck down an Arkansas prison ban on inmate beards, in a remarkable legal victory for an habitual offender-turned-devout Muslim who started off representing himself.A unanimous Supreme Court ruling has invalidated an Arkansas state prison rule that barred inmates from growing beards measuring more than a quarter of an inch long. In an emphatic 9-0 decision, the court’s liberals and conservatives united in concluding the prison’s grooming policy violated the religious rights of the prisoner known both as Gregory Holt and Abdul Maalik Muhammad. Hobby Lobby Stores, which addressed the question of whether family-owned corporations could mount religious objections to paying for women’s contraceptives under the health care overhaul.

The rule had been challenged by inmate Gregory Holt, a Muslim man who had asked for permission to grow a half-inch-long beard as a compromise from the full beard he believes is required by his faith. Arkansas officials had argued Holt’s half-inch beard presented a security risk, while Holt’s representatives said a 2000 law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act protected his right to grow it. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a concurrence joined by Sonia Sotomayor, noted that she believes the religious freedom extended to Holt is of a different character than that extended to the Hobby Lobby store chain in a much more controversial 2014 court ruling. In 1999, Christeson was found guilty of the rape and murder of Susan Brouk, and the murders of her 12-year-old daughter, Adrian, and nine-year-old son, Kyle.

He was convicted of slitting his ex-girlfriend’s throat and stabbing her in the chest, and has threatened to “wage jihad” against various individuals. Justice Samuel Alito, writing on behalf of the court, said the state already searches clothing and hair and had not given a valid reason why it could not also search beards. Hobbs has actually brought together some unlikely allies, including the Obama administration and many atheist and religious groups who have sided with the inmate.

Christeson’s 17-year-old cousin Carter, then 17, was also implicated in the murders, but was spared the death sentence after he agreed to give evidence for the prosecution against his relative. As TheBlaze previously reported, Holt, who also goes by the name Abdul Maalik Muhammada, is serving a life sentence for stabbing his ex-girlfriend and for burglary. Holt, who did time for making a threat against President Bush’s daughters before being convicted in 2010 of knifing his girlfriend, was sentenced to life in prison in 2010. Prison staff initially cited security concerns in defending their reasoning, claiming that inmates like Holt could use facial hair to conceal weapons, among other security issues, the New York Times reported last year.

In Arkansas, prison regulations allow “neatly trimmed” mustaches, along with quarter-inch beards for inmates with dermatologic problems, but ban beards in other cases. While the majority of state prison systems in the United States allow short beards, Arkansas is among the seven states that have much stricter regulations. Since the Department does not demand that inmates have shaved heads or short crew cuts, it is hard to see why an inmate would seek to hide contraband in a 1⁄2-inch beard rather than in the longer hair on his head,” Alito said. During oral argument last October, Holt was represented by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Douglas Laycock, a prominent advocate in religious liberty cases. Muhammad, representing himself, filed a lawsuit seeking the ability to wear a half-inch beard in accordance with his faith,” the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the conservative legal firm representing him, announced last year. “Mr.

The law states the government cannot impose a “substantial burden on the religious exercise” of an inmate unless it is the “least restrictive means” of meeting a “compelling government interest.” A key question was how much deference should be granted to prison authorities in keeping facilities secure. Alito argued that “so many other prisons allow inmates to grow beards while ensuring prison safety and security,” leading the court to believe that security can be assured in some other way, the AP reported.

Whatever their inmate grooming policies may be, they echoed the Arkansas argument that courts should accept the states’ judgments about maintaining prison safety. Even short beards, one official said, could conceal “anything from razor blades to drugs to homemade darts.” Another said that SIM cards for cellphones could also be hidden in beards.

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