In Immanuel Baptist Church v. City of Chicago, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently ruled that the City of Chicago had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act’s (RLUIPA) substantial burden provision in applying its parking code regulations to an Immanuel Baptist Church (Church). In so

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently clarified how to determine whether a substantial burden on religious exercise exists for purposes of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The case involves Vision Warriors Church, a “non-profit ministry that seeks to provide a faith-based community for men recovering from

Ronald Reiske, a Wiccan prisoner incarcerated in a Connecticut prison, thought it reasonable that the correctional facility provide him with the necessary materials and equipment to practice his Wiccan religion – including 14 feet of rope, candles, oils, a three-by-two-foot pile of wood, a pendant cord, and a “summoning horn.”  Should he have such things in prison?  What threat might rope, candles, combustible oils, a pile of wood, and the rest of the items pose in such a facility? Reverend Anthony Bruno, Director of Religious Services for the Department of Corrections (DOC), found that they were indeed a substantial threat and denied many of the requests.  Requests for less threatening items were also denied because similar items were already available for purchase in the commissary.

Displeased with the result, Reiske – whose record includes charges for fighting, gang affiliation, security tampering, flagrant disobedience, and possession of contraband – did what many other inmates do when they don’t get what they want.  He sued.  According to Reiske, the DOC’s denial substantially burdened his practice of his Wiccan religion in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).  He also asserted an Equal Protection violation under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Continue Reading Wiccan Prisoner Seeking 14 Feet of Rope, Combustible Oils, and Candles Loses First Amendment, RLUIPA, and Equal Protection Challenges