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Court Rules Prisons Must Accommodate All Inmates’ Religions

June 02, 2005  | 

The Supreme Court has ruled that even satanists must be allowed access to literature, ceremonial items, and time to practice their religions while in state prisons.

Three Ohio prisoners – a wiccan, a satanist, and a racial separatist – were among those who sued under a 2000 federal law that requires prisons receiving federal funds to accommodate prisoners’ religious beliefs unless they can show reason not to.

The Court’s unanimous ruling in favor of the inmates stated that prisons’ accommodation of religious beliefs is not tantamount to promoting religion, which would go against the separation of church and state.

This ruling could encourage other inmates to sue for prisons to provide other religious accommodations. The Court acknowledged that too much accommodating could put an undue financial and managerial burden on corrections facilities.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg clarified that the law “does not elevate accommodation of religious observances over an institution’s need to maintain order and safety.”

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