Ninth Circuit Allows Muslim Woman To Sue County Under RLUIPA

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Reversing a lower court deciion, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a Muslim woman who was forced to remove her headscarf while in detention in a California facility has stated a claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), and her case against the Orange County Santa Ana holding facility may go forward. Said the court in part,

Congress certainly had real-world consequences in mind when it enacted RLUIPA, and the text of the statute
indicates that it did not intend to minimize the serious security and other management interests of institutions. It chose, however,
to deal with accommodation issues as a second step in the analysis, not by categorically excluding facilities like the
Santa Ana Courthouse holding facility from RLUIPA. The County’s argument will not go unaddressed. RLUIPA tasks courts with deciding, on a case-by-case basis, whether the particular restrictions an institution imposes on the religious liberty of its inmates are justified. …Given the diversity of courthouse holding facilities and inmate religious practices, such tailored adjudication accommodates the balance of religious freedom and institutional order. As the Supreme Court wrote in Cutter, “[s]hould inmate requests for religious accommodations become excessive, impose unjustified burdens on other institutionalized persons, or jeopardize the effective functioning of an institution, the facility would be free to resist the imposition.” … But, more importantly, regardless of what we judges think, we are bound by the unambiguous language of the statute. RLUIPA plainly covers the Santa Ana Courthouse holding facility.

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