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Our Rights: Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
By Rashid Junaid, Prisonersolidarity.org
June 31, 2006

In the year 2000 Congress passed the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which states that: "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."

If an institution does not receive federal funds they are not obligated to
follow RLUIPA standards (because Congress uses its Spending and Commerce
Clause powers to make this Act law). Most if not all state prison systems
and institutions receive federal money for some portion of their operations
and are therefore obligated to follow RLUIPA standards.

In a recent unanimous decision the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld
RLUIPA in Cutter v. Wilkerson, 2005 U.S. Lexis 346, 73 U.S.4347. This
particular case addresses the constitutionality of the RLUIPA itself.
However, the opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg provides
guidance for those prisoners seeking greater exercise of religious freedom
within institutions, especially Muslims.

Justice Ginsburg's report upheld the use of halal (lawful for Muslim
consumption) foods, possession of the Qur'an, prayer oils, and pork
substitutes in the context of Congress's legislative intent to enact the
RLUIPA, for the purpose of unburdening the practice of religion in prisons.
Does this mean that Muslim prisoners should start filing lawsuits following
every perceived restriction to their religious practice? The answer is
"no." Muslim prisoners should be cautious about filing lawsuits, due to
the ramifications of such actions. If you file a lawsuit and don't properly
present your claims in court, you could further justify restrictions placed
upon Muslim prisoners.

Muslims also need to prioritize their concerns. In order of importance,
these should be: 1) the right to conduct and/or attend Jumu'ah (the weekly
Friday service), 2) the right to have a Muslim chaplain, 3) the right to
have a halal food diet, 4) the right to receive donated religious materials,
5) the right to wear kufis (Islamic headgear), 6) the right to conduct
fundraisers, 7) the right to have adequate accommodations during Ramadan
(the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims observe fasts), and 8)
the right to have Islamic name changes recognized.

The Muslim Prisoner Ministry has put together a list of Muslim prisoners'
rights that include cases to support their claims. Send a SASE for a copy
of the Muslim Prisoners' Rights Information Guide to:

The Muslim Prisoner Ministry
3936 South Benton
Kansas City, Misouri 64130
To receive a copy of the Cutter v. Wilkerson opinion piece, write to the
U.S. Supreme Court at the below address:

William K. Suter, Clerk
United States Supreme Court
1 First Street, NE
United States Courthouse
Washington, D.C. 20543

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Rashid Junaid is a Muslim prisoner who is deeply engaged in his endeavor to
raise the consciousness of his fellowmen, especially the youths, to a higher
level. Rashid is a former member of the CRIPS and has helped to develop
programs to steer youths away from gang violence to positive action. He is
the Imam (prayer and spiritual leader) of the Muslim community at Potosi
Correctional Center in Mineral Point, Missouri, and has filed various
litigations against the Missouri Department of Corrections to establish
Islamic rights for the Muslim communities in the state of Missouri. He is
also the editor of the Muslim Prisoner Bulletin, a publication designed to
bring attention to the concerns of Muslim prisoners incarcerated throughout
the U.S. He can be reached by writing to:

Rashid Junaid, # 191386
Potosi Correctional Center
11593 State Hwy. O
Mineral Point, MO 63660

When writing to Rashid, please send him a pre-embossed stamped envelope so
he can promptly answer your letter. He is not permitted adhesive stamps,
that is, regular stamps. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:
http://www.prisonerlife.com/tips.cfm

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