The Council on American-Islamic Relations has sued the state Correction Department for requiring inmates to attend combined religious services for three faiths — Islam, Nation of Islam and Nation of Gods and Earths.
CAIR and Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas have sued on behalf of Gregory Houston Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad, and other inmates. Holt has sued Arkansas successfully before. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that he should be allowed to grow a beard as part of his faith.
Holt argues that the required combined Friday service violates his faith’s requirement of attending a service led by adherents of Islam because the other groups have differed beliefs and practices. That amounts to a First Amendment violation, his suit filed in federal court in Little Rock says. From a CAIR news release:
Under ADC policy, Muslims risk losing their designation as Muslim if they skip or refuse to attend the combined Friday prayer services. Losing that designation in turn threatens the loss of their other religious accommodations, including meals during Ramadan.
“Religious freedom protects everyone’s ability to worship with those who share their faith,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “Followers of Islam, Nation of Islam and the Nation of Gods and Earths should be permitted to worship separately in a manner of their choice, just as Arkansas currently offers such accommodations for Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, and Buddhist worship services.”
Laycock, who argued Holt’s previous case before the Supreme Court, said:
“The Arkansas Department of Correction needs to join the Federal Bureau of Prisons and several large state prison systems in recognizing that Islam and the Nation of Islam are completely different faith traditions.”
CAIR attorney Carolyn Homer said:
“It is unacceptable that Arkansas thinks it may define who is a Muslim based on whether or not they attend Friday services, all while refusing to provide spiritually-valid Friday services. No one checks how often Christians in the facilities attend Sunday services before letting them celebrate Christmas.”
Speaking of CAIR: It’s the target of identical resolutions by Rep. Brandt Smith and Sen. Jason Rapert, both known for unfriendliness toward Muslims. Their resolutions encourage “law enforcement to suspend contact and outreach” with CAIR. Their resolution links CAIR to terrorist organizations. Prison officials apparently won’t have the luxury of avoiding CAIR contact for now.
The Correction Department declined comment and referred questions to the atorney general’s office.