Milhouse v. Bledsoe (M.D.Pa. 2012): Prisoner's Religious Free Exercise

Plaintiff Kareem Hassan Milhouse, an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (“USP-Lewisburg”), filed aBivens-styled complaint against several Federal Bureau of Prisons and USP-Lewisburg officials. The Plaintiff asserted that he had been denied access to the courts on three occasions and denied the practice of his religious requirements in violations of his right to free exercise, on the bases that: (1) there was no Islamic chaplain for Muslim inmates nor services for Special Management Unit inmates to attend services physically, nor were services provided through the radio as were other institutional programs, and (2) there was no Islamic celebration after the Ramadan fast, nor special meal of the types given for holidays of other faiths, and no Muslim chaplain with whom to discuss articles of faith. [He believed both of these types of services to be requirements stipulated by Islamic ritual law.] The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. The District Court granted the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The Court found that the alleged conduct did not fall within the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), which applies to free exercise of religion claims under the First Amendment raised by prisoners, because the Plaintiff did not establish that a “substantial burden” had been placed on his ability to exercise his religion. The Court further determined that the Plaintiff had alternative means of worship available to him and that the Defendants’ conduct of providing the meal to non-Muslim inmates did not inhibit or curtail his ability to express adherence to his Islamic faith and beliefs. Because the Plaintiff failed to meet the substantial burden test with respect to both of these freedom of religion claims, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.

FirstPreviousPage 1 of of 2NextLast