Monday, April 07, 2014

10th Reinstates Prisoner's Civil Rights Complaint Alleging Denial of Ability of Practice Religion

Tennyson v. Carpenter, 2014 WL 1015908 (3/18/14) (Col.) (unpub'd) - The 10th reverses a district court's dismissal of the prisoner's ยง 1983 complaint. Mr. Tennyson kept binders of choir music in his cell. He was part of the prison choir called the "Praise Team." Singing in the choir was Mr. Tennyson's "response to the dictates of God." A policy change prohibited choir members from keeping their binders in their cells. Guards confiscated the binders and removed most of Mr. Tennyson's personal photos from the binders. Later he noticed a photo of his daughter graduating was missing. An officer refused to double-check for the photo. Mr. Tennyson filed a grievance to retrieve the photo. The response was that any missing photo was due to his misconduct in misusing the chaplain-issued binders for a non-choir purpose. Shortly after the grieving, the chaplain was directed to kick Mr. Tennyson off the choir for misusing the binders. Later the missing photo was anonymously left in Mr. Tennyson's cell. The denial of choir denied Mr. Tennyson the ability to practice his religion. It was not for the court to say whether choiring is a way to practice religion, if Mr. Tennyson believed it was. Mr. Tennyson made a case for retaliation for him filing a grievance. He also sufficiently alleged an equal protection violation because he was the only African-American in the choir and the only member disciplined for what he said other choir members had done.