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

Jan. 26 2023

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

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada