ACLU of Louisiana Protects Religious Liberty for All; Sues State of Louisiana for Denying Inmate Access to Religious Materials and Services
BATON ROUGE, LA The ACLU Foundation of Louisiana has sponsored a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of an Angola inmate who has been systematically denied access to religious materials and prevented from conducting religious services.
Inmates have First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion that restrains the government from deciding which religions and religious texts are acceptable to study, and which are not, said Katie Schwartzmann, Staff Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Louisiana. Angola officials may not control the private practice of religion, unless it clearly poses a safety or security risk.
Norman Sanders, who has belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints all of his life, has been denied access to Mormon publications available from bookstores and other vendors. Orders from reputable Mormon publishers are routinely returned.
Since December of 2003, the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola only allows inmates to order books and other written materials from vendors on an approved vendor list. Mr. Sanders has made numerous requests since that time to add respected distributors of Mormon publications, such as Brigham Young University, to the list. These requests were denied.
Also, officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary and Warden Burl Cain have ignored repeated requests by Mr. Sanders to conduct Mormon religious services at Angola. Mormons should receive the same accommodation of their beliefs as do individuals of other faiths, said Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. Fair and equal treatment means they deserve the right to a place to meet, have a minister and discuss their beliefs like other groups.
I found this case worthy of a post because how often do you see the ACLU coming to the defense of a Mormon? We may never see this again so let’s all enjoy the moment.