Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Supreme Court Rules on Religious Rights of Prisoners

In a unanimous decision today, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the refusal of the Arkansas Department of Corrections to allow Muslim inmate Gregory Holt to grow and keep a short beard for religious reasons violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), specifically 42 U.S.C 2000cc-1, despite the Department's claim that the restriction was necessary for security reasons such as keeping contraband out of its prisons. The full opinion in Holt v. Hobbs, including the concurrences of Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, is available here.

For a clear understanding of this interesting case and its implications, a good starting point is Amy Howe's SCOTUSblog post, "A Unanimous Court Endorses Religious Liberties in Prison: In Plain English." And for those interested in keeping up with cases involving religion and the Constitution and related church-state and religious liberty issues, I also recommend Religion Clause, one of only 30 legal blogs comprising ABA Journal's 2014 Blawg 100 Hall of Fame.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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