Press Releases

U.S. District Court to Hear CAIR’s Oral Arguments in ‘God Pod’ Religious Discrimination Case Involving Three Inmates in Virginia Jail

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/19/2019) – On Friday, Sept. 20, CAIR attorneys will offer oral arguments in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Young, et al. v. Newton, et al., a prison litigation case involving challenges to Riverside Regional Jail concerted efforts to prevent inmates from practicing Islam and favor Christian religious beliefs disproportionately.

MEDIA NOTE: CAIR attorneys will be holding a media availability following oral arguments.

CAIR’s lawsuit on behalf of three incarcerated individuals calls for religiously-discriminatory programs at Riverside Regional Jail to be dismantled, equal access to programming for Muslim incarcerated people, and adequate access to nutrition and religious dietary guidelines during Ramadan.

SEE: Lawsuit says Virginia jail’s ”˜God Pod’ violates Constitution

CAIR urges community members of all backgrounds who strongly believe in our First Amendment rights to be free from religious discrimination to attend the oral arguments tomorrow.

WHAT: Court Hearing to Determine Whether Virginia Jail Systematically Disfavored the Practice of Islam Over Other Religious Beliefs and Violated Federal Law.

WHERE: Honorable Anthony J. Trenga’s Chambers, Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse, 401 Courthouse Square Alexandria, VA 22314

WHEN: Friday, September 20, 10 a.m. (Media availability after the hearing.)

CONTACT: CAIR National Litigation Director, Lena Masri, 248-390-9784,; CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney, Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425,


From 2015 to 2019, Riverside Regional Jail implemented policies and practices that systematically limited access to religious diets, services, and materials for Muslim incarcerated individuals.

Muslims not only faced push back when requesting religious materials and literature, but were denied access to various services, study groups, and prayer services.

In order to receive a religious halal diet, Muslims were required to complete and “pass” a religious test administered by the jail’s contracted chaplain. Muslims also faced issues during Ramadan as correctional staff failed to ensure they received meals on-time during religiously-prescribed periods.

These practices culminated in Riverside Regional Jail’s most egregious act of discrimination: its hiring of a Christian ministry to run its chaplaincy functions, creation of a religiously-segregated housing pod accessible only to Christians and attempts at mass converting its incarcerated population.

By and through a facially unfair process, Riverside segregated Christian incarcerated individuals from its general population, offered them special privileges, better housing accommodations, and incentives, all for the purpose of promoting a biblically-based curriculum. This became known as the Life Learning Program, or “God Pod.”

These actions are literally discriminatory. It is against RLUIPA and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to systematically favor one religion while putting in place practices and procedures that deny other individuals from being able to constitutionally practice their religious beliefs.

In this case, CAIR is committed to ensuring that each individual, including our most vulnerable, can practice their religious beliefs free of discrimination and segregation.

CAIR is a civil liberties and advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to promote justice, protect the civil rights of American Muslims, and educate and empower the understanding of Islam.

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,; CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney, Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,


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