Does the First Amendment Apply to Prisoners?
Posted Oct 25, 2012

Does the First Amendment Apply to Prisoners?

by Sheila Musaji

Pamela Geller is angry about what she calls “Mosqueing the Jails”  to “accommodate Islamic supremacist convicts.” 

All that actually happened was that The ACLU of Washington and the Public Interest Law Group filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington on behalf of two Muslim prisoners.  Muslims incarcerated in the county lockup now will be provided halal meals, have access to prayer rugs through the jail commissary and be able to congregate in groups of five for prayer and religious study, the ACLU of Washington and the Public Interest Law Group said in a news release.

I tried looking up the names of the two convicts who brought this religious accommodation suit, and could find nothing except that they are convicted murderers, and are Muslims.  Nothing about their particular religious beliefs.  Unless Geller is saying that all Muslims are “Islamic supremacists”, she must mean that the fact that they raised this issue of religious freedom is what makes them Islamic supremacists.  Geller says about the decision of the Washington Court “Maybe they can provide al qaeda manuals and bomb parts.” 

If Muslims ask to have their Constitutional rights honored the same as everyone else’s, are they “demanding special treatment”?  Have any issues like this been raised for other prisoners from other religious backgrounds? 

Actually, there are a few almost identical cases being considered right now in different states. 

In Texas a similar case has been brought by another convicted murderer:

There are 884 Jewish inmates in the Texas prison system, and 29 of them self-identify as “Orthodox,” according to state officials. One Jewish inmate, Max Moussazadeh, is demanding that the prison where he is housed in solitary confinement provide him with kosher food.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear oral arguments in the case of Moussazadeh v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The court will decide whether the Jewish inmate has a right to be provided a kosher diet. His lawyers say the change would cost TDCJ between $1,000 and $3,000 per year, or an extra 0.02 percent of the agency’s annual budget.  In conjunction with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, Moussazadeh’s lawyers argue that offering kosher meals should be required under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, passed by Congress in 2000. It “prohibits a state or local government from substantially burdening the religious exercise of such an institutionalized person.”

In Florida:

The Christian Legal Society, National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and Prison Fellowship have jointly filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in support of a prisoner who sued the Florida Department of Corrections for not serving kosher meals in accordance with the dietary restrictions of his Jewish faith.  “No sentence involves revoking a prisoner’s constitutional right to religious freedom,” Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the NAE, told The Christian Post.

In Nevada

The Nevada Board of Examiners approved a contract to provide kosher kitchens and rabbinical supervision of kosher food for prison inmates as part of an effort to settle the lawsuit filed by Jewish inmates who want kosher prison meals, according to the Las Vegas Sun.  But some 45 of the nearly 300 inmates receiving the kosher meals objected to the service approved, according to the non-profit Scroll K/Vaad Hakashrus, saying the food is not up to the same standard as what is served to the rest of the inmates. They said it does not meet nutritional values, according to the Sun.  A federal court in Las Vegas will hear the inmates’ complaints and decide whether to approve the settlement of the class-action lawsuit at a hearing on Oct. 11.

Across the United States, 35 prison systems as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons provide kosher diets for Jewish prisoners. 

Pamela Geller has raised this issue previously with religious accommodation in public schools, and was just as wrong in that case as in this case.

As a society, either the law, and the constitution apply to all citizens, or to none.  Either all prisoners have the right to maintain their religious practices, or none have that right.  Which Constitutional rights are retained by prisoners, and which rights they lose is an issue to be decided by the courts.  Whatever decision the courts make must be applied to all prisoners of all religious groups.

Geller shows over and over again by such anti-Muslim rabble rousing that she is a bigot and an Islamophobe, and that she has no understanding of the Constitution of our great country. 

Her goal is to stir up her base and constantly agitate them to see all Muslims as a threat.  And, they get it.  Here are just a few of the comments under Geller’s post

This is purely politically correct BS. Lock ‘em up in a cell with a few live hogs & make them live in the muck. It might be considered cruel & unusual punishment for the hogs, but everyone’s got to chip in an make sacrifices if we’re going to get out country back on the path to righteousness.

it is against my religion to have muslims in my AMERICA can I sue to have them removed?

If the criminals want halal food and special muslim treatment, then I would suggest that they move to a muslim country after they have served their sentences.  We need to DE-mUSLIMIZE AMERICA before they grow to an unmanageable population. It is already bad enough but some people are going to have to get off their asses and help in this fight. They must be defeated or we will lose America along with all our freedom.



Maine Proposes Accommodation of Native American Religious Practices In Prisons

PEW Forum on Religion in Public Life has a study Religion in Prisons

Reconciling the Rights of Sikh Prisoners