U.S. Supreme Court: Muslim convicts can have beards

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How have Christians and non-Christians fared before the Supreme Court in RFRA and RLUIPA cases?.

In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the inmate has a right to grow his beard in accord with Islamic beliefs, and that prison officials had failed to demonstrate a sufficient reason to refuse to provide a religious accommodation. WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled that Arkansas corrections officials had violated the religious liberty rights of Muslim inmates by forbidding them to grow beards.

— Unanimously allowed a Muslim prison inmate in Arkansas to grow a half-inch beard for religious purposes, rejecting prison officials’ claims that it posed a security risk.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.I’ve long been skeptical of claims that justices in religious freedom cases — and especially devoutly Christian justices, such as Justice Antonin Scalia — are biased in favor of Christians in religious exemption cases. The court ruled that under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), state prison officials are required to offer an accommodation whenever a prison policy substantially burdens an inmate’s religious exercise.

— In a 7-2 ruling, sided with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. in the company’s high-stakes patent dispute with rival firms over top-selling multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone. Courts will uphold the prison policy when officials are able to demonstrate that it constitutes the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s compelling interest.

— Ruled that lower courts should take another look at an appeal from a Missouri man on death row for killing a woman and her two children 16 years ago. The justices, on a 9-0 vote in a closely watched case involving prisoner Gregory Holt, rejected the state’s reasoning that the policy was needed for security reasons to prevent inmates from concealing contraband.

— Refused to hear a challenge from retailers who claim the Federal Reserve allows banks to charge businesses too much for handling so-called “swipe fees” in consumer debit card transactions. — Declined to halt a lawsuit against a Louisiana Roman Catholic church and a priest over allegations that a teen was kissed and fondled by an adult church parishioner. Holt — who is also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad — had argued in a handwritten plea to the court that the state’s refusal to grant exceptions was oppressive and forced inmates “to either obey their religious beliefs and face disciplinary action on the one hand, or violate those beliefs in order to acquiesce” to the grooming policy. In the decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the US high court said the prison restrictions violate Holt’s constitutional rights to freedom of religion.

Different cases involve different legal issues, and — especially when you have only a few cases in your sample — it may well be that any differential success rates stem from something other than religion. — Turned away three appeals from military contractor KBR Inc. that sought to dismiss lawsuits over a soldier’s electrocution in Iraq and open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. 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.

Flores (1993): 6-3 defeat (Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Stephen Breyer and David Souter dissenting) for the Catholic claimants who sought an exemption from historic landmark preservation laws for a church building that they wanted to alter. The nine justices acknowledged the validity of prison officials’ security concerns — that inmates could hide weapons or other contraband inside their whiskers. Wilkinson (2005): Unanimous victory for the three prisoner claimants, who were (a) a Christian Identity / Aryan Nation racist, (b) an Asatru / Odinist, and (c) a Wiccan. In Arkansas, prison regulations allow “neatly trimmed” mustaches, along with quarter-inch beards for inmates with dermatologic problems, but ban beards in other cases. 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.

Their claims under RLUIPA were allowed to go forward because the court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to RLUIPA (again, a broader question than just whether these particular exemptions should be granted). 3.) Gonzales v. Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the two lower federal courts that reviewed the Arkansas Department of Correction’s grooming policy.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a pointed concurring opinion that recalled the court’s bitterly divided 2014 decision allowing for-profit companies to deny employees contraceptive insurance coverage based on company owners’ religious beliefs. “Unlike the exemption this court approved in Burwell v. The UDV is technically described as a “Christian Spiritist” sect, but it’s safe to say, I think, that (a) the specific practice of the UDV is not at all a traditional Christian practice, (b) the UDV itself is culturally and theologically fairly far from the Christianity that the justices know (and, for some of them, love). Hobby Lobby Stores,” Ginsburg said, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “accommodating (Holt’s) religious belief in this case would not detrimentally affect others who do not share (his) belief.” They noted that the prison staff had provided several other accommodations to allow the inmate to practice his religion, including providing a prayer rug, access to religious materials, the ability to correspond with a religious advisor, special Islam-authorized foods, and observance of religious holidays.

I thus think that any in-group biases that justices might possibly have are not likely to come into play in cases such as this (or in the Santeria Free Exercise Clause case, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Texas (2011): 6-2 defeat (Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Breyer dissenting, Justice Elena Kagan not participating) for the Christian prisoner claimant, on the question whether RLUIPA waived sovereign immunity for monetary damages. 5.) Burwell v. If we omit Boerne, Cutter and Sossamon, on the grounds that they dealt with cross-cutting issues that would affect many religious groups — and in which the particular claimant’s religious was just fortuitous (which is true of Employment Division v.

Ginsburg had objected to granting a religious exemption to the owners of Hobby Lobby because she said the company’s employees were entitled to full coverage of all contraceptive methods required under the ACA. Smith, as well, where a Native American Church member happened to be the losing claimant) — then we see that Christians had a 1-0 record and non-Christians had a 2-0 record.

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. Again, I stress that I do not think that counting cases this way, when there’s such a small sample and so many other issues involved (both in the cross-cutting cases and the cases that on their face resolve only a specific exemption question), is helpful. As we see from Holt, the Christian claimants’ victory in Hobby Lobby helped the Muslim claimant in Holt; and I’m sure Holt will help future Christian claimants (as well as non-Christian claimants), too. Since we’re on this topic, let me mention a related claim that I’ve heard from some academics: that, at least in the 1960s to 1980s, “only Christians ever [won] free exercise cases” in the U.S.

In 1963, when the first of these cases was decided, there were apparently under 350,000 American Christians who belonged to the prominent Saturday-observer denominations, but over 500,000 Orthodox Jews — the Jews most likely to observe the Sabbath — and 5 million more non-Orthodox Jews, some of whom may also have observed the Sabbath. And the justices must have realized this: One of the justices who heard the first case was Jewish (Justice Arthur Goldberg), and just a few years earlier, the court had dealt with a different kind of claim brought by Jewish Sabbatarians.

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