Protecting the Religious Rights of Inmates Has Implications beyond the Prison Walls

In 2021, Damon Landor was nearing the end of a sentence for drug possession when prison officials forcibly shaved his head, despite his protests that to do so would violate his religious beliefs as a Rastafarian. Although the law—which could be applied just as easily to observant Jewish convicts—appears to be on his side, as written it is virtually unenforceable. Bobby Miller describes two lawyers’ efforts to change that:

Landor is contesting a lower court’s decision that he is not entitled to damages under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which safeguards the religious freedom of incarcerated persons. [H]is case was dismissed on the theory that RLUIPA does not permit damages against prison officials. State-prison officials in other jurisdictions have also removed the beards and dreadlocks of Muslim and Rastafarian inmates; refused to provide detainees with kosher, halal, or other foods in keeping with religious dietary laws; and prohibited them from wearing hijabs, yarmulkes, and other head coverings.

Zack Tripp, one of the lawyers representing Landor, explained the shocking facts of the case: . . . “In 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit directed Louisiana that it must grant religious exceptions and allow Rastafarian men like Mr. Landor to keep their dreadlocks in prison. Yet, when Mr. Landor handed that decision to the prison officials just weeks before his release, they tossed the court’s opinion, shackled him to the table, and had him shaven completely bald. Mr. Landor’s allegations show that, without a damages remedy, Congress’s protections and the court’s decisions interpreting those protections aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. No damages means no accountability.”

RLUIPA isn’t only relevant for the imprisoned. It is a critical statute for religious practitioners everywhere. RLUIPA also provides religious institutions with a means of circumventing restrictive zoning-law limits on their use of real estate. That is why Landor’s case has broader implications and should attract support from all those who care about religious freedom.

Read more at National Review

More about: American law, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus