"Jehovah claims that Appellees violated his free exercise rights under the First Amendment"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Not a line you commonly see in a court opinion, and yet there it is, in today's Jehovah v. Clarke, a Fourth Circuit case, brought by an inmate who has apparently changed his name to Jesus Emmanuel Jehovah. (The caption lists him as "a/k/a Robert Gabriel Love, a/k/a Gabriel Alexander Antonio.")

Jehovah complains about various denials of his rights under the Free Exercise Clause and under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, namely

  1. being barred "from consuming wine"—even small quantities—"during communion,"
  2. being denied a prison job because of his refusal to work on what he says is "the 'Old Jewish Sabbath' (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) [and] the 'New Christic Sabbath' (Sunday at sunset to Monday at sunrise)," and
  3. being housed with non-Christian cellmates, including one who allegedly "subjected him to 'anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-God … rhetoric.'"

And Jehovah actually wins a trip back to district court; the district court had thrown out all these claims, but the court of appeals concluded that there needed to be more factfinding on whether Jehovah's rights were substantially burdened by the prison policies and whether the prison could show that its policies were the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. The prison may yet win on some or all of these claims, but the case remains alive.

Plaintiff did not, however, complain that he was denied halibut that was good enough for Jehovah:

Thanks to Bryan Gividen for the pointer—and thanks, as always, to Monty Python.