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Odin in the Slammer

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Odin.jpgWhen Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, it had in mind such things as Jewish prisoners getting kosher meals.  Those of us with some familiarity with the realities of prisoner litigation knew it was ripe for exploitation.  The standard joke was that prisoners would form the Church of the Daily Steak, whose mandatory sacrament is a USDA choice filet mignon, medium rare, with mushroom sauce.  If the prison serves them USDA prime instead, that is a violation of RLUIPA.

One problem with satire is that it needs to be one step more ridiculous than reality, and reality has a nasty habit of catching up.

Wisconsin prisoner Derek Kramer and his prison group claim to worship Odin.  That's right, Thor's Hammer and all that.  Their sacraments do not include the Daily Steak, but they do include the Annual Pork Feast.  No, I'm not making this up.

The district court granted summary judgment on Kramer's claim for damages based on qualified immunity, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed that ruling.  On injunctive relief as to the Pork Feast, however, dismissal for nonexhaustion was a misstep, and the Seventh sent the case back for further proceedings.  The opinion is here.

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That states have to spend precious resources litigating this (and other) nonsense is obscene. State AGs should, in these cases, make the public aware of these abuses.

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