ACLU of Indiana Sues Indiana Department of Correction
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INDIANAPOLIS – A man who belongs to a spiritual religious group filed suit today against the state prison in Pendleton, Ind., for denying him the ability to worship and study with others of his religion.
The lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana states that the Pendleton Correctional Facility, which is run by the Indiana Department of Correction, is in violation of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiff, Paul Veal, practices the African Hebrew Israelite religion, which holds communal worship and study as a necessary component of creating a lifestyle that complies with the desires and commandments of God. Since November 2012, the Pendleton prison has suspended this religious group’s ability to meet for congregate prayer unless a volunteer is present, something not required of other religious groups at the facility.
“The DOC does not have the right to deny prisoners an intrinsic element of their religious beliefs,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. “Federal law protects people from substantial burdens on their religious free exercise, and the equal protection clause guarantees that laws will be applied equally.”
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The ACLU strives to safeguard the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty by ensuring that laws and governmental practices neither promote religion nor interfere with its free exercise.