U.S. Supreme Court to Decide on Inmates' Religious Rights Law

( [email protected] ) Oct 12, 2004 09:42 PM EDT

The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up a case questioning whether prisons are required to accommodate inmates’ requests for particular religious practices.

A 2000 federal law already protects the religious rights of prisoners but plaintiffs of several cases involving an avowed Satanist, two members of the Viking’s Asatru religion, and a racial separatist, all from the Ohio prison system, say the prison officials impose an undue burden on their religious beliefs in violation of the federal law.

According to the law, states, counties and cities can impose burdens only if they have a compelling reason and if they use the least restrictive means available.

While a federal judge declared the federal law constitutional, an appeals court disagreed. It said the law’s "inevitable effect is to give greater freedom to religious inmates and to induce nonreligious inmates to adopt a religion."