Belief Behind Bars: Religious Freedom in Prison, RLUIPA, and the Establishment Clause
28 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2013 Last revised: 24 Jul 2013
Date Written: Summer 2005
The religious freedom of incarcerated persons in the Fourth Circuit was threatened in January of 2003 by Madison v. Riter, in which a Virginia district court found that the incarcerated persons provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 was an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Circuit overruled the district court later that year. Now however, with the Sixth Circuit's decision in Cutter v. Wilkinson, finding the same provision to be an unconstitutional favoring of religion, the religious rights of incarcerated persons face an uncertain future, one that will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court when it hears Cutter on appeal. This Article argues that the Fourth Circuit's Establishment Clause analysis in Madison II is consistent with past applications of Lemon v. Kurtzman and Supreme Court Establishment Clause doctrine, and therefore, the Court should resolve the split regarding the constitutionality of RLUIPA consistent with that opinion.
RLUIPA is a reasoned and tailored attempt to balance the religious liberty of the incarcerated with the interests of prison administrators. By adopting the Fourth Circuit's Establishment Clause analysis in Madison II instead of the Sixth Circuit's incorrect application in Cutter, the Supreme Court will ensure the religious liberty of prisoners by upholding RLUIPA in a manner consistent with the Constitution.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Prison/Incarceration
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