Beliefnet News

Beliefnet News


Supreme Court Limits Prisoners’ Right to Sue

WASHINGTON (RNS) Prison inmates who are deprived of their religious rights cannot sue states for monetary damages, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday (April 20).

Inmate Harvey Leroy Sossamon III said a Texas state prison illegally prevented him from attending religious services. Sossamon had been on cell restriction for disciplinary reasons at the time.

Sossamon alleged that the prison’s actions violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which protects inmates’ right to practice their faith.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, ruled that under RLUIPA prisoners can sue to change prison polices but not seek financial redress. Texas does not forgo its “sovereign immunity” when it accepts federal money to run its prisons, Thomas said.

After Sossamon filed suit, the prison changed its policies, Thomas noted.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer in dissenting from the majority decision, argued that RLIUPA allows prisoners to seek “appropriate relief” for violations of the law.

Without the possibility of monetary damages, Sotomayor said, prisoners will be forced to defend their religious rights “with one hand tied behind their backs.”

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty agreed, saying the high court’s ruling leaves prisoners with “an incomplete remedy for vindicating their religious rights.”

“We are disappointed in the majority’s pinched view of what was a clear congressional intent to provide prisoners broad protection for religious liberty and a robust remedy for its violation, including monetary damages,” said BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker.

- DANIEL BURKE, Religion News Service



Previous Posts

Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular
Worship service attendance is up in New York City, but down among young adult Jews, according to recent studies. On the other hand, fewer Spanish-speaking teens are attending Catholic mass, but more are showing up at Evangelical churches. [caption id="attachment_12343" align="alignleft" width="48

posted 3:10:30pm Nov. 05, 2013 | read full post »

Billy Graham: I know where I'm going
“Daddy thinks the Lord will allow him to live to 95,” said Franklin Graham recently. It was not a prophecy but a hope, Franklin explained, that he would live to see the beginning of a Christian re

posted 10:02:01am Oct. 24, 2013 | read full post »

Are All These Christians' Complaints of Persecution Just So Much Empty Whining?
The headlines are alarming: “Catholic-Owned Company Wins Religious Freedom Court Decision,” “Death Toll Rises to 65 in Boko Haram Attack on Students,” “Little Sisters Catholic Charity Victimized By Obamacare,” “Christians Sought Out, Murdered in the Kenyan Mall Massacre,” “Judicial

posted 2:41:26am Oct. 07, 2013 | read full post »

How can Christians defend themselves against today's random violence?
So, a crazed gunman opens fire and you’re caught in the middle. How can you survive? Heroes come in all sorts of packages. And they wield all sorts of defensive weapons. Such as guns and Jesus. Sometimes both at the same time. [caption id="attachment_12246" align="alignleft" width="480"] Ant

posted 2:53:48pm Sep. 27, 2013 | read full post »

Does Sunday Morning Church Really Need All This Glitter, Showmanship and Gimmickry?
What’s wrong with church today? Are we in danger of turning worship into a flashy concert? Of watering down the message so nobody is offended? Of forgetting the simplicity of the Gospel? I grew up with a preacher’s kid. He was a fake following in the footsteps of his flimflamming father who d

posted 11:26:20am Sep. 20, 2013 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.