The Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) (42 U.S.C. §2000cc-1) said that prisoners in facilities that accept
Federal funds cannot be denied accommodations necessary to engage in
activities for the practice of their own religious beliefs.
A number of prisoners in Ohio
(including a Wiccan, a Satanist, two Norse Pagans, and a White
Supremacist) sued, claiming that Ohio did not sufficiently accommodate
their 'non-mainstream' religions.
For example, Ohio wouldn't
provide chaplains for these religions, wouldn't give them access to
religious literature or ceremonial items, or had a dress code that
wouldn't allow for religious practice.
So no pentagrams,
pitchforks, burning crosses, or horned helmets?
The Trial Court found for the
prisoners. Ohio appealed.
Ohio argued that RLUIPA improperly advanced religion and thus
violated the 1st Amendment'sEstablishment Clause.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The prisoners appealed.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and found for the prisoners.
The US Supreme Court found
that RLUIPA did not violate the 1st
The Court looked back to Locke
v. Davey (540 U.S. 714 (2004)), and
realized that there will always be situations 'at the joints' between the
Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause.
Either Ohio burdens the
prisoners' free exercise, or they
spend government funds helping religion. Either way they run afoul of
some part of the 1st Amendment.
In this case, the Court
found that since the prisoners faced a "government-created
burden", the balanced tipped more towards the Free Exercise
Clause and Ohio must provide
The Court did note that RLUIPA could run afoul of the 1st
Amendment if certain religions
received favored treatment, or if free exercise was not properly
balanced with other compelling government interests (such
as security and order in prisons).