Heaven Help Us - 14 Am U.J Gender Soc Pol'y L 585 American...

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14 Am. U.J. Gender Soc. Pol'y & L. 585 American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law 2006 Comment *585 HEAVEN HELP US: THE RELIGIOUS LAND USE AND INSTITUTIONALIZED PERSONS ACT'S PRISONERS PROVISIONS IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION IN CUTTER V. WILKINSON Morgan F. Johnson [FNa1] Copyright © 2006 American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law; Morgan F. Johnson Introduction ......................................................... 586 I. Background .......................................................... 588 A. Establishment Clause Doctrine ................................... 588 B. Prisoners' Rights ............................................... 588 C. Background of RLUIPA ............................................ 590 1. The Religious Freedom and Restoration Act ..................... 590 2. Enactment of RLUIPA ........................................... 591 D. Cutter v. Wilkinson ............................................. 592 II. Analysis ............................................................ 595 A. In the Aftermath of the Cutter Decision a New Standard of Review Emerges for Adjudicating RLUIPA Claims: Deferential Strict Scrutiny 595 B. The Implementation of RLUIPA Results in Excessive Requests for Accommodation and Unacceptable Burdens on Important Penological Interests .......................................................... 599 1. RLUIPA's "Religious Exercise" Requirement Allows for Excessive Litigation, Which Burdens Both the Prisons and Courts .............. 600 2. A Study of RLUIPA Cases Since the Statute's Enactment Demonstrates the Judiciary's Tendency to Ignore Significant Security Interests, When Faced with Prisoners' Religious Claims .... 603 C. A Future Supreme Court Decision to Revisit the Cutter Court's Establishment Clause Analysis Could Avoid the Negative Impacts of RLUIPA ............................................................. 606 Conclusion ........................................................... 611 *586 Introduction "There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion."-- James Madison, Journal Excerpt, 1788. [FN1]
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When President Clinton signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) into law on September 22, 2000, he gave religious prisoners a powerful tool for challenging prison regulations that burden their religious freedom. [FN2] In Cutter v. Wilkinson, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of RLUIPA and consequently strengthened an already potent method for the religious prisoner to bring claims against prisons--one that is unavailable to non-religious inmates. [FN3] To understand the potential effects of RLUIPA, imagine a prisoner in jail for murder, who announces to his guards that he cannot perform his work duties on Wednesdays because Wednesday is a holy day in his religion, a form of Satanism. [FN4] Until this point, he has never mentioned or demonstrated that he follows any religion. [FN5] This prisoner also tells the guards that, because of his beliefs, he will need martial arts classes and special food. [FN6] If the prison officials deny his *587 request, a court will most likely hear this prisoner's claim under RLUIPA, even though the same court would probably dismiss his claim if it was not religious in nature. [FN7] Thus, with the passage of RLUIPA, Congress enacted a law that favors inmates with religious beliefs over those who are agnostic or atheist, thereby blurring the traditional lines dividing Church and State. [FN8] This Comment argues that the Supreme Court's analysis of RLUIPA's constitutionality will result in excessive litigation and unacceptable threats to important penological interests. [FN9]
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