New York prison officials shut down a longstanding weekly Quaker worship service, conducted by outside volunteers, on security grounds, and unilaterally replaced it with a differently-structured religious service. Incarcerated and non-incarcerated Quakers sued under the First Amendment and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The district court dismissed the suit on several grounds, including that prison officials’ replacement of the Quaker worship service did not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious exercise. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
RFI Position: The decisions of the district and appellate courts violate the First Amendment rights of non-prisoners and prisoners alike. Religious bodies, not judges, are the determiners of what constitutes religious exercise.
Read the amicus brief here.