Haight v. Thompson, No. 13-6005 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Five death-row inmates, housed in a maximum-security prison in Kentucky, filed suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1(a), which prohibits state and local governments from placing “a substantial burden” on the “religious exercise” of any inmate unless they establish that the burden furthers a “compelling governmental interest” and does so in the “least restrictive” way. They made various claims, some related to requests to practice their Native American faith, some related to a request for clergy visits. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the prison officials. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part, holding that there was a triable issue of fact over whether RLUIPA gives the inmates a right to have access to a sweat lodge for faith-based ceremonies and a triable issue of fact over whether RLUIPA gives the inmates a right to buffalo meat and other traditional foods for a faith-based once-a-year powwow? RLUIPA, however, does not permit inmates to collect money damages from prison officials sued in their individual capacities.