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Cutter v. Wilkinson

Supreme Court of the United States

March 21, 2005, Argued ; May 31, 2005, Decided

No. 03-9877

Opinion

 [*712]   [**2116]   [***1028]  JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 3 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA or Act), 114 Stat. 804, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2), provides in part: "No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution," unless the burden furthers "a compelling governmental interest," and does so by "the least restrictive means." Plaintiffs below, petitioners here, are current and former inmates of institutions operated by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and assert that they are adherents of [****7]  "nonmainstream" religions: the Satanist, Wicca, and Asatru religions, and the  [**2117]  Church of Jesus Christ Christian. 1 They complain that Ohio prison officials (respondents here), in violation of RLUIPA, have failed to accommodate their religious exercise

 [*713]  "in a variety of different ways, including retaliating and discriminating against them for exercising their nontraditional faiths, denying them access to religious literature, denying them the same opportunities for group worship that [****8]  are granted to adherents of mainstream religions, forbidding them to adhere to the dress and appearance mandates of their religions, withholding religious ceremonial items that are substantially identical  [***1029]  to those that the adherents of mainstream religions are permitted, and failing to provide a chaplain trained in their faith." Brief for United States 5.

For purposes of this litigation at its current stage, respondents have stipulated that petitioners are members of bona fide religions and that they are sincere in their beliefs.  Gerhardt v. Lazaroff, 221 F. Supp. 2d 827, 833 (SD Ohio 2002).

In response to petitioners' complaints, respondent prison officials have mounted a facial challenge to the institutionalized-persons provision of RLUIPA; respondents contend, inter alia, that the Act improperly advances religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The District Court denied respondents' motion to dismiss petitioners' complaints, but the Court of Appeals reversed that determination. The appeals court held, as the prison officials urged, that the portion of RLUIPA applicable to institutionalized persons, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, [****9]  violates the Establishment Clause. We reverse the Court of Appeals' judgment.

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544 U.S. 709 *; 125 S. Ct. 2113 **; 161 L. Ed. 2d 1020 ***; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 4346 ****; 73 U.S.L.W. 4397; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 317

JON B. CUTTER, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. REGINALD WILKINSON, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION, ET AL.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by  Cutter v. Wilkinson, 423 F.3d 579, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 19695 (6th Cir.) (6th Cir., 2005)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

 Cutter v. Wilkinson, 349 F.3d 257, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 22840 (6th Cir.) (6th Cir. Ohio, 2003)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

religion, religious, accommodation, exercise of religion, establishment, court of appeals, inmates, establishment of religion, prison, Commerce, Spending, rights, compelling governmental interest, Church, substantial burden, institutionalized, Correction, funds, least restrictive, prison official, free exercise, the Act, institutions, respondents', advances, violates, burdens, wear, religious observance, religious services

Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Freedom of Religion, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Judicial & Legislative Restraints, Overbreadth & Vagueness of Legislation, Criminal Law & Procedure, Defenses, General Overview, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, Public Health & Welfare Law, Social Services, Institutionalized Individuals, Advocacy & Protection, Establishment of Religion, Governments, Local Governments, Administrative Boards, Confinement Conditions, Discipline, Postconviction Proceedings, Imprisonment