Christian Prisoner Entitled To Seek Monetary Damages For Violation Of His Religious Rights, Says ACLU

August 10, 2010

Organization Files Brief In Support Of Texas Prisoner's Supreme Court Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUSTIN, TX – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas filed a friend-of-the-court brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the right of a prisoner in Texas to seek monetary damages from the state under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) after he was denied access to a prison chapel for religious purposes. The name of the case is Sossamon v. Texas.

The following can be attributed to Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director for the ACLU:

"In passing RLUIPA, Congress recognized that prisoners do not surrender their constitutional right to worship when they are incarcerated. By accepting funds from the federal government, Texas agreed that federal courts could order appropriate relief if Texas prisoners were denied their religious rights. Appropriate relief includes damages, which Congress and the courts have long recognized are necessary to ensure that constitutional rights are respected." 

The following can be attributed to Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas:

"RLUIPA's purpose is to protect prisoners when their religious rights are infringed upon. If the Court was to do away with the chance for prisoners to seek financial damages, then prisons would lack an incentive to ensure their religious rights. The Court must preserve the protections provided for by the law."

The ACLU's brief can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights-religion-belief/sossamon-v-texas-aclu-amicus-brief

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