UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ON-LINE

CUTTER et al. v. WILKINSON, DIRECTOR, OHIODEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION ANDCORRECTION, et al., 544 U.S. ---

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CUTTER et al. v. WILKINSON, DIRECTOR, OHIO
DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND
CORRECTION, et al.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

No. 03-9877.Argued March 21, 2005--Decided May 31, 2005

Section 3 of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U. S. C. §2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2), provides in part: "No government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an institution," unless the burden furthers "a compelling governmental interest," and does so by "the least restrictive means." Petitioners, current and former inmates of Ohio state institutions, allege, inter alia, that respondent prison officials violated §3 by failing to accommodate petitioners' exercise of their "nonmainstream" religions in a variety of ways. Respondents moved to dismiss that claim, arguing, among other things, that §3, on its face, improperly advances religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Rejecting that argument, the District Court stated that RLUIPA permits safety and security--undisputedly compelling state interests--to outweigh an inmate's claim to a religious accommodation. On the thin record before it, the court could not find that enforcement of RLUIPA, inevitably, would compromise prison security. Reversing on interlocutory appeal, the Sixth Circuit held that §3 impermissibly advances religion by giving greater protection to religious rights than to other constitutionally protected rights, and suggested that affording religious prisoners superior rights might encourage prisoners to become religious.

Held: Section 3 of RLUIPA, on its face, qualifies as a permissible accommodation that is not barred by the Establishment Clause. Pp. 8-16.


Full Text of Opinion


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