Tenth Circuit Partially Reinstates Lawsuit over Oklahoma Inmate’s Access to Halal Meat
Madyun Abdulhaseeb, an Oklahoma inmate and practicing Muslim, filed a lawsuit against the state department of corrections including a litany of claims, mostly revolving around allegations that the prison system has violated his religious freedoms in a variety of ways, from failing to provide a full-time Muslim spiritual leader to passing out Christian pamphlets at Christmas time. In total, Absulhaseeb brought 17 claims, under both Section 1983 (the generic statute that allows for lawsuits over constitutional violations) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which specifically covers religious freedom protections in the land use and prison contexts.
The Tenth Circuit recently upheld the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the state on most of the counts, but remanded to the district court for further proceedings on Abdulhaseeb’s two RLUIPA claims:
Mr. Abdulhaseeb established that he was entitled to proceed with his RLUIPA claims, first, that his religious exercise was substantially burdened when officials at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary (OSP) denied his request for a halal diet and, second, when officials at the Great Plains Correctional Facility (GPCF) denied his request for halal meat for an Islamic feast. (PDF p. 3)
It appears from the facts in the opinion that, when Abdulhaseeb requested halal meals, he was repeatedly told that Oklahoma prisoners could request a non-pork or vegetarian diet, but he was denied a diet including halal meat. In the prison where he’s currently incarcerated, the options are non-pork, vegetarian, and kosher, but again, no halal — and in any event, Oklahoma policy restricts kosher diets to Jewish inmates (PDF pp. 8, 30).