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Court of Appeals reverses and remands inmate’s request for kosher meals

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A Pendleton Correctional Facility inmate will not be able to collect monetary damages against employees of the Indiana Department of Correction, but his request for kosher meals will get a second review.   

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded a lower court’s summary judgment for the Indiana Department of Corrections which resulted in the dismissal of the complaint made by inmate Jeffrey Allen Rowe.

In Jeffrey Allen Rowe V. Bruce Lemon, A49A02-1204-PL-344, the issues before the COA were whether the inmate is entitled to pursue monetary damages against the defendants under either 42 U.S.C. 1983 or the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and whether there is a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment on Rowe’s claims under RLUIPA.   

On Jan. 19, 2011, Rowe filed an “Offender Request for Religious Accommodation” asking that he be provided kosher meals. He is not Jewish but professes to believe in “Identity Christianity” and maintains God commanded that followers adhere to the Biblical food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. These are the rules that kosher diets follow.

After Rowe’s request and subsequent appeals were denied, he filed a complaint against DOC officials and the commissioner seeking compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages as well as a declaratory judgment injunction requiring that he be served kosher meals. The complaint invoked RLUIPA and 42 U.S. C. 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.    

The COA affirmed the grant of summary judgment against Rowe on his constitutional claims. It did not review Rowe’s Section 1983 constitutional claims because the remedies to which the inmate would be entitled are virtually identical to RLUIPA.  

However, the COA did reverse the grant of summary judgment against Rowe on his claims under RLUIPA because there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding the sincerity of his religious beliefs. The court remanded for further proceedings on those claims.




 

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