A Utah prison inmate is suing the state Department of Corrections claiming that its policies prevent him from practicing his religion.
Michael Polk, who is serving time for aggravated assault and robbery, filed the suit in federal court accusing the DOC of denying him items that he needs to practice the Asatru religion, which is the worship of Nordic gods like Odin, Thor, Tyr, and Heimdal.
Polk's complaint says that he has followed the Asatru faith since 2005. It argues that in order to perform its rites, Polk must have a Thor's hammer, a prayer cloth, a mead horn, a drum made of wood and boar skin, a rune staff, and a sword. The complaint adds that the sword can be made of cardboard.
The plaintiff says that he asked the prison chaplain for the items that would allow him to perform the rites, but his request was refused. Later prison officials allowed him to have a small Thor's hammer pendant. The other objects were denied.
"You may purchase a towel from the commissary for an altar cloth. You may purchase the book or books of your religion and maintain them in your cell," Prison warden Steven Turley wrote in a letter to Polk.
Polk is not the only Utah inmate to file a suit against the DOC that claims the state denied him the right to practice the rites of his religion. In 2002, the state supreme court rejected an inmate's claim that the state was violating his rights by refusing to let him drink blood or partake of a sacrament supplied by a female vampire.