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United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
April 7, 1986, Argued ; September 4, 1986, Decided
[*930] BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge:
The Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections appeals from an order of the district court declaring the Church of Wicca to be a religion and enjoining prison officials from denying Herbert Dettmer, an inmate at Powhatan Correctional Center, access to six objects that he requested for use in the private meditation taught by the Church. We agree with the district court that the doctrine taught by the Church of Wicca is a religion, but we [**2] vacate the injunction because it is based on an erroneous legal premise and lacks evidentiary support.
In 1982 Herbert Dettmer began studying witchcraft in a correspondence course provided by the Church of Wicca. Within a year he started meditating, following ceremonies for private meditation described in the correspondence course and in other writings that he had gathered. Dettmer decided that he needed the following items to aid and protect him while meditating: a white robe with a hood, sea salt or sulfur to draw a protective circle on the floor around him, candles and incense to focus his thoughts, a kitchen timer to awaken him from short trances, and a small, hollow statue of "one of the gods or goddesses of the deity," to store spiritual power called down during meditation.
The Virginia Department of Corrections guideline 141, regulating inmates' personal property, requires that inmates wishing to purchase merchandise through the mail must place the order through the correctional officer in charge of inmates' property. This officer orders the item, if it is authorized by guideline 141. If not, the officer sends the request to the assistant warden for approval or disapproval. [**3] Late in 1983 Dettmer requested permission to order the items he needed for meditating. The property officer informed Dettmer that he would not be permitted to order them because guideline 141 did not list them as "authorized personal property."
Dettmer appealed this decision to the warden, explaining that he needed the items for religious services. The acting warden responded by letter of December 16, 1983: "The items you have requested are not authorized under Division Guideline 141; therefore, your request is denied. The items you have requested are considered contraband regardless of the religious practices." Guideline 141 defines "contraband" as "generally, any unauthorized item."
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
799 F.2d 929 *; 1986 U.S. App. LEXIS 29400 **
Herbert Daniel Dettmer, Appellee, v. Robert Landon, Director of Corrections, Appellant
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Richard L. Williams, District Judge. (CA-84-1090-AM).
Disposition: AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART.
religion, meditation, religious, district court, inmates', prison, contraband, candles, salt, ceremonies, witchcraft, guideline, robe, injunction, incense, box
Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, General Overview, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Standing, Judicial & Legislative Restraints, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Freedom of Religion, Overbreadth & Vagueness of Legislation, Criminal Law & Procedure, Postconviction Proceedings, Imprisonment, Bill of Rights