Muslim inmates denied access to Islamic programming, while separate living quarters offered to those willing to live in accordance with Bible
(WASHINGTON, DC, 11/21/18) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today announced the filing of a legal challenge to a Virginia jail that has created segregated living quarters -- what inmates refer to as the "God Pod" -- for those inmates who agree to study and live their lives in accordance with the Bible.
CAIR’S lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of four Muslims who have been inmates at Riverside Regional Jail in North Prince George, Va., and outlines a systematic religious preference at the facility.
In addition to the establishment of the "God Pod," the lawsuit details how the Muslim plaintiffs have been denied adequate meals during Ramadan, access to Islamic programming and to pork-free meals as required by their faith.
SEE CAIR’S LAWSUIT:
"Segregating inmates based on their willingness to study and live their lives in accordance with the Bible is a clear violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause," said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. "This lawsuit seeks a federal court's intervention to ensure that Riverside Regional Jail respects the rights of inmates of all faiths."
She noted that while religious programming is an appropriate and constitutional aspect of a prison's educational offerings to its inmates, Riverside Regional Jail's inadequate religious programming for Muslim inmates reflects the facility's discriminatory approach.
The lawsuit seeks a broad injunction to remedy violations of the First Amendment's Establishment and Free Exercise Clause, the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, among other statutory and constitutional violations.
In addition to dismantling the "God Pod," the injunction sought includes a court order that the jail provide Muslim inmates with adequate nutrition during Ramadan and access to Islamic programming.
CAIR offers an educational toolkit, called "A Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help correctional officers and administrators gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
Last May, CAIR filed a similar lawsuit and emergency motion on behalf of Muslim Inmates in Alaska.
CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.
The Washington-based organization’s recently-released 2018 Civil Rights Report, “Targeted,” showed a 17 percent increase in bias-motivated incidents against American Muslims from 2016 to 2017, and a 15 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in that same time period.
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Community members are being urged to report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by going to: https://www.cair.com/report
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri, 248-390-9784, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425,email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,firstname.lastname@example.org