McRoy v. Cook County Dep’t of Corr. (N.D. Ill. 2005): Balancing Religious Accommodation Against Prison Safety

Plaintiff James McRoy claimed that prison officials violated his First Amendment free exercise rights by cancelling some of the scheduled Muslim prayer services without notice, limiting the number of services that Muslim inmates could attend each week, limiting the number of Muslim inmates who could attend each service at any given time, subjecting Muslim inmates to strip searches before they could leave their cells to attend services, prohibiting imams from bringing religious publications onto the prison’s premises, and prohibiting Muslim inmates from exclusively living together in one of the prison’s living units. The prison officials, however, claimed that their actions resulted from a lack of volunteers to organize services and the need to curtail inmate movement on some days because of heightened security concerns. The Court held that McRoy did not sufficiently demonstrate that a jury could conclude that he had been subjected to a violation of his rights. It thus entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

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