U.S. Supreme Court
Civil Rights – RLUIPA
A prison’s grooming policy violates RLUIPA insofar as it prevents a prisoner from growing a ½-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.
In addition to the Department’s failure to prove that petitioner’s proposed alternatives would not sufficiently serve its security interests, the Department also fails to adequately explain the substantial underinclusiveness of its policy, since it permits ¼-inch beards for prisoners with medical conditions and more than ½ inch of hair on the head. Its failure to pursue its proffered objectives with regard to such “analogous nonreligious conduct” suggests that its interests “could be achieved by narrower ordinances that burdened religion to a far lesser degree.” Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 546. Nor does the Department explain why the vast majority of States and the Federal Government can permit inmates to grow ½-inch beards, either for any reason or for religious reasons, but it cannot. Such evidence requires a prison, at a minimum, to offer persuasive reasons why it believes it must take a different course. See Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U. S. 396, 414, n. 14.
509 Fed. Appx. 561, reversed and remanded.
13-6827 Holt v. Hobbs
Alito, J.; Ginsburg, J., concurring; Sotomayor, J., concurring.