In one of the jails in North Carolina, three Jewish inmates requested permission to meet in a private room to pray and study the Torah. However, they were denied because they had less than ten people to participate, even though inmates of other faiths were permitted to meet and study their religious texts. Learn more: FirstLiberty.org/Briefing
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety housed Danny Loren, aka, Israel Ben-Levi, in one of their jails.
In 2012, Ben-Levi requested permission to meet in a private room with two of his fellow inmates for about an hour each week to pray and study the Torah. That request was denied because the jail administration determined that his group was too small. Inmates meeting for worship without a rabbi or volunteer chaplain had to have a quorum of at least 10 prisoners.
Other religious groups of inmates met with fewer then 10 inmates or having a volunteer supervise them. Only the Orthodox Jewish inmates—all three of them—were denied a meeting opportunity without a rabbi.
He filed a federal lawsuit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Both the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded there was no substantial burden placed upon the free exercise of his religion. And the Supreme Court denied review his case.
Justice Alito, however, dissented from that denial. He said that there was no “indication that a Jewish study group is more likely than a Christian or Muslim group to impede order, compromise inmate relationships, or absorb personnel resources.”
Not every claim asserted under RLUIPA is an automatic winner. But, at least this important law protecting religious liberty gave him his day in court.
To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.