Religious Liberty Clinic students Kate Falkenstien ’15 and Gabe Schlabach ’14 drafted an amicus brief in a merits case now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. The clinic’s brief was filed on behalf of the nation’s oldest women’s prisoner advocacy group – the Women’s Prison Association – and in support of a male Muslim prisoner’s challenge to wear a short beard in accordance with his faith. Kate and Gabe argue that federal laws governing the exercise of religion in our nation’s prisons protect women as well as men, and that any rule the Court develops for religious accommodation of inmates should account for the unique situation in which devout female prisoners find themselves. For these women, religion is a source of great strength and hope but can also be misunderstood by prison officials – particularly where unfamiliar minority faith practices, such as headscarves or unshorn hair, are concerned.
Jordan Rice ’15 and Dalton Rodriguez ’15 drafted an amicus brief in another prisoners’ rights case, this time in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The clinic’s brief was filed on behalf of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Christian Legal Society, and the Hindu American Foundation. The case involves a Department of Justice challenge to a state prison’s refusal to offer kosher meals based, in part, on claims that such meals are too expensive due to the perceived inability to refuse them to inmates who might not have a corresponding religious need. Jordan and Dalton respond that prisons, like any other public entity charged with assessing religious liberty claims – e.g., in the amnesty or draft context – may test the sincerity of those seeking a religious accommodation, provided the issue explored is whether the person believes what he says and not whether it’s true.