ACLU Lawsuit Alleges Prison Mealtime Violates Muslim Inmates' Freedom of Religion

Is this lawsuit relevant? Are prisoners allowed the same civil rights as civilians?
Since this does not effect us personally, do we have any reason to be against such a lawsuit? Should these Muslim prisoners automatically be accomodated since they are Muslims, lest we are politically incorrect? Should we consider why there are rules in the first place for that says how fast prisoners have to eat in their own cells?

And should we deflect from this particular law suit and discuss other religions and their own rights, like Catholics being served meat on Fridays during lent?

What say you?

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming that a Wyoming State Penitentiary policy restricting prisoners’ mealtimes violates the constitutional rights of two Muslim inmates.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Joseph Miller and Hurie Purdiman Jr., two inmates serving time at the penitentiary in Rawlins.

At issue is an alleged “20-minute rule” requiring inmates to eat their meals within 20 minutes after the food is delivered to a cell or common dining area, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit seeks for the inmates to be exempted from the rule because it forces them to choose between eating and practicing their religion.

Miller and Purdiman claim that meals have arrived at the same time of day that they’re practicing prayers according to their Muslim faith. On other occasions, meals arrived during a period of religious fasting and then were confiscated before the fast ended at sunset.

“If someone has started their prayer, unless they’re willing to interrupt their prayer and leave at that moment, they forgo their meal because (the guards) won’t go back and open their cell doors,” said Jennifer Horvath, staff attorney for Wyoming Chapter of the ACLU. “It’s not unreasonable to ask for some extra time to finish their meals. They have a right to practice their religion, and the prison has been treating it as a privilege.”

The lawsuit names Robert Lampert, director of the Department of Corrections, and Michael Murphy, warden of the Wyoming State Penitentiary. It claims the prison’s policy violates the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

Lampert said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment directly on its claims. But he said the prison has measures in place to accommodate inmates’ religious or health needs.

He said trays and utensils are generally collected less than 30 minutes from when they were delivered to inmates so the dishes can be washed in time for the next meal.

“If an inmate has a medical reason that requires additional time to consume their meal, we take that into account, or if it’s for a religious purpose, we accommodate those needs,” Lampert said. “I think those issues are pretty well addressed through our policy, but I’ll look and see what actual lawsuit alleges.”

Horvath said Miller and Purdiman tried to resolve the issue by following the Department of Corrections grievance procedure. Negotiations stretching more than 18 months failed to bring a resolution, she said.

Purdiman is serving a six- to nine-year sentence for robbery, according to the prison’s records department. Details on Miller’s criminal record were not immediately available Thursday evening.

They deserve nothing. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

Oh, I can think of a few things the ACLU deserves.

I suspect “this is a prison, not a fucking short order restaurant” is not a legal principle, but it ought to be.


These "muslims’ are prison converts, who adopted Islam in hopes of getting more priviledged treatment.
Why can’t the ACLU stick to legitmate stuff (like preserving the Nazi’s right to march in Skokie, Il, and making sure that children are not harmed (by seeing crosses in public buildings)?

I think this country has separation of church and state.

That means that the prisoners should adapt their religion around the rules of the prison, not the other way around.

Well, I don’t think that Allah would really be offended if they started their prayers a bit earlier, so that they could eat on time. But I’m kind of casual that way. And I’m not a Muslim.

On the other hand, saying that they deserve nothing is a broad general statement that is hard to defend.

Possibly. What evidence do you have of that?

Why don’t they just go back to Iran if they want to have a religion that makes them pray at certain times! Or else, not break the law! They should have known that their eternal soul would be in jeopardy for whatever crime they committed.

And don’t even get me started on the ACLU. Who cares about civil liberties for people the majority hates, anyway?

Umm, the whole point of fasting and prayers and such is to put your spiritual life above your material one.

What accommodations are already made for prisoner’s religious beliefs? Are kosher and halal meals provided for those who ask?

I can imagine it as a privilege earned after good behaviour, rather that the result of litigation.

I do. Take rights away from others and yours can be taken too. Fight for everyones rights everytime. They are mine too.

I’m pretty certain Richard Parker’s last line was the culmination of a fair streak of sarcasm.

Yeah, STFU Dr. King!

Y’know, I don’t even necessarily mind providing religious accomodation in prison. But in my mind, any prisoner accomodations come dead last. We can offer suitable meals for prisoners with special religious diets - but I say it ain’t required. We can offer religious mealtimes if the prison system wishes it - but we don’t have to.

I think it is a sign of a person’s loyalty to their god if they can remain faithful while they must endure hardships as penance for their sins. Accommodating it would steal the opportunity to test their resolve.

Seriously now, what are the chances that Messrs. Miller and Purdiman were born and raised Muslims? Not much.

Would it matter is they were born Muslim or not? Either their religious requests deserve accommodation, or they do not. You can’t tell for sure that a person born into a particular religion isn’t also just paying lip service to it to get whatever they get in jail for it, either.

Until they develop a blood test that determines if a person is an authentic believer or not, you have take their word for it. Or just don’t accommodate anybody.