Sossamon v. Texas Decided

August 1, 2010

Whether the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which was designed in part to protect the religious rights of prisoners, allows prisoners to sue a state for money damages when a state violates those religious rights.

The plaintiff in this case is a Texas state prisoner who was denied the opportunity to participate in Christian worship services. He sued, seeking injunctive relief and damages. Texas changed its policy mid-litigation, mooting the claim for injunctive relief, and successfully argued in the lower courts that it was immune from damages. The ACLU amicus brief argues that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) authorizes the federal courts to order "appropriate relief" when the religious rights of prisoners are violated, that "appropriate relief" includes damages, that Texas waived its immunity when it accepted federal funds to help operate its prisons, and that damages are essential to ensure judicial review, as this case demonstrates.

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