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Cutter v. Wilkinson

Citation. 544 U.S. 709, 125 S.Ct. 2113, 161 L.Ed.2d 1020 (2005).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant under RLUIPA, alleging they were refused permission to practice their religion.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

This Court has long recognized that the government may accommodate religious practices without violating the Establishment Clause. Accommodations must be measured so that it does not override other significant interests.

Facts.

Plaintiffs asserted they were adherents to non-mainstream religions, including Santanist, Wicca, and Asatru religions and the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. They filed suit alleging Defendant violated RLUIPA by failing to accommodate their religious exercise by retaliating and discriminating against them for exercising their faiths, denying them access to religious literature, denying them opportunities to worship, forbidding certain religious dress and items, and failing to provide chaplains trained in their faith.

In response, Defendant argued RLUIPA improperly advances religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Issue.

Whether RLUIPA, which prohibits the government from placing limits on inmates’ free exercise of religion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Held.

No. RLUIPA, which prohibits the government from placing limits on inmates’ free exercise of religion does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Concurrence.

Justice Thomas

I agrre RLIUPA is constitutional under the Establishment Clause. It is also important to understand the Clause as a federalism provision, which leads to the same conclusion.

Discussion.

RLUIPA is compatible with the Establishment Clause because it alleviates exceptional government-created burdens on private religious exercise. It protects institutionalized persons who are unable to free attend to their religious needs are therefore dependent on the government’s permission and accommodation for exercise of their religion.

We have no cause to believe that RLUIPA would not be applied in an appropriately balanced way, with particular sensitivity to security concerns. Moreover, the law adopts a compelling government interest standard because lawmakers were mindful of the urgency of disciple, order, safety, and security of prisons. Judgement reversed.


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