NOTE: This article was originally published on April 20, 2011, on the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Web site (www.bjconline.org/).
WASHINGTON – In a 6-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners cannot seek damages against the state under a federal law when their right to the free exercise of religion is violated. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty says today’s decision in the case of Sossamon v. Texas leaves prisoners with an incomplete remedy for vindicating their religious rights.
The case involved the claim of a prisoner, Harvey Leroy Sossamon, who was denied participation in worship services and access to a room with symbols and furnishings that have a special significance to his Christian religion.
Sossamon challenged the prison’s restrictions under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000. That federal law was designed to protect the religious freedom of prisoners and other persons in government custody . . .
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