Islamic Law in U.S. Courts: Easterling v. Pollard (7th Cir. 2013): Prisoner’s Complaint Over Ramadan Start Date

Petitioner Kofi Easterling, an inmate at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI), filed suit against the Respondents, various prison officials, alleging that they ignored the Petitioner’s instructions as to when Ramadan began. The Petitioner claimed that the Respondents’ Ramadan date violated his religious beliefs under the First Amendment and RLUIPA. In the District Court, the Respondents filed a motion for summary judgment, to which the Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment in response. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Respondents, finding that the Plaintiff’s RLUIPA claim failed because he had produced no evidence of a substantial burden on his religious exercise. Because the Plaintiff failed to meet his burden under RLUIPA, he similarly failed to establish that the Respondents burdened a “central religious belief or practice” in violation of the Free Exercise Clause. Therefore, the Respondents were entitled to summary judgment on the First Amendment and RLUIPA claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

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