A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Muslim prison inmate in Arkansas, Gregory H. Holt (also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad), can grow a short beard for religious reasons. The case is The case is Holt v. Hobbs, 13-6827. It represents a trifecta loss. The federal magistrate (Joe J. Volpe), the district court judge (Brian S. Miller), and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Judges Bye, Arnold, and Shepherd) all ruled against Holt only to see a unanimous Supreme Court reject their reasoning. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor both wrote concurring opinions.
Notably, Magistrate Volpe recommended denial of this claim even though he stated in the hearing: “I look at your particular circumstance and I say, you know, it’s almost preposterous to think that you could hide contraband in your beard.”
Holt cited the hadiths, accounts of the acts or statements of the Muhammad and the attributed statement of Muhammad that Muslims are commanded to “cut the mustaches short and leave the beard.”
More than 40 state prison systems allow short beards and most allow longer ones. States like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia bar beards except under limited conditions.
Holt challenged the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) grooming policy under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2), and sought a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. He claimed that one of his fundamentalist Muslim beliefs was that he must grow a beard and that the prison burdened his ability to practice his religion though a grooming policy, which allowed trimmed mustaches but no other facial hair. The policy allowed quarter-inch beards only for a diagnosed dermatological problem. Mr. Holt sought permission to maintain a half- inch beard –insisting that it would balance his religious beliefs with ADC’s security needs. The prison insisted that it had accommodated Holt in a variety of ways including a prayer rug and a list of distributors of Islamic material, corresponding with a religious advisor, allowing to maintain the required diet and observe religious holidays. Prison officials also claimed the grooming policy was necessary to further ADC’s interest in prison security.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote the opinion. He was notably the the author of the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, where a sharply divided Court ruled in favor of the religious rights of a private business in a dispute under the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Alito rejected the claims of prison security in the denial of a beard. Alito applied the same legal test that used in June in the Hobby Lobby case in finding that the facts “easily satisfied” the requirement of showing that the ban on beards burdened his religious practices. While officials claimed that even short beards can conceal “anything from razor blades to drugs to homemade darts” or SIM cards, the Court did not buy it. Alito found that security “would be seriously compromised by allowing an inmate to grow a half-inch beard is hard to take seriously . . . An item of contraband would have to be very small indeed to be concealed by a half-inch beard and a prisoner seeking to hide an item in such a short beard would have to find a way to prevent the item from falling out.” He further noted that, despite this stated concern, Arkansas prisons do not require “shaved heads or short crew cuts.”
The case is an important reaffirmation of the Hobby Lobby reasoning, this time with all nine justices signing on. The opinion is replete with citations to the earlier case. RLUIPA is the sister statute to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which was applied in Hobby Lobby. The opinion cuts back a bit on the excessive deference afforded to prisons in past cases, though only with regard to religious practices:
RLUIPA, like RFRA, “makes clear that it is the obligation of the courts to consider whether exceptions are required under the test set forth by Congress.” . . . That test requires the Department not merely to explain why it denied the exemption but to prove that denying the exemption is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. Prison officials are experts in running prisons and evaluating the likely effects of altering prison rules, and courts should respect that expertise. But that respect does not justify the abdication of the responsibility, conferred by Congress, to apply RLUIPA’s rigorous standard. And without a degree of deference that is tantamount to unquestioning acceptance, it is hard to swallow the argument that denying petitioner a 1⁄2-inch beard actually furthers the Department’s interest in rooting out contraband.
Eighteen states supported Arkansas and all states will now have to meet this more demanding standard in such conflicts.
Holt is by no means a sympathetic character, but that is not relevant to the basis for his constitutional claim. He is serving a life sentence for a vicious assault on his ex-girlfriend in which he slit her throat and stabbed her in the chest. He has also threatened to “wage jihad” against various people.
This is an impressive win for University of Virginia School of Law Professor Douglas Laycock and his legal team in their representation of Holt.
Here is the opinion: Holt v. Hobbs, 13-6827.
107 thoughts on “From Hobby Lobby To Holt: Supreme Court Rules Unanimously In Favor Of Religious Rights Of Arkansas Inmate”
It’s getting arrogant in here. Time to step in. The Criminal’s free will has been revokes – therefore he is a slave to society. This is a matter of semantics. It is very painful for someone who flouts authority to have their constitutional rights revokes. Especially a Muslim who “Hates us for our Freedoms” It’s a double psychological whammy in my opinion. Now this is in my opinion okay?
So, he slits throats huh? Now he wants a short beard….. Screw him.
How can anyone know who is virtuous from online commentary? Or do the traits of virtue and humility only get assigned to those one agrees with? Lots of hypocrisy within the commentariat, that’s self evident.
We all should take a lesson of humility from Olly. :/
Your demand should be directed at your parent’s for not teaching you the virtue of humility. But then again, you likely believe I don’t know what virtue and humility even are. Thanks.
“Locke was an idealist who had a vague idea that really did not meet with reality.”
Locke was a philosopher that made a historically significant contribution to the field of political philosophy, and I have a great deal of respect for his contributions. At the time, his ideas were revolutionary and paved the way for the dominant political structure in the world (the constitutional republic). Imagin However, like the title says, I’m an anarchist, so I ultimately don’t agree with the sum of Locke’s political views, particularly his theory of the natural state vs the commonwealth.
This discussion is hilarious, while being informative. I suspected Olly didn’t grasp the philosophy any more than I did. And I will admit my philosophical knowlege is cursory at best. Instinctually I knew Olly was full of beans.
“And based on your caustic rhetoric; doing so from a very weak foundation. ”
Olly, at this point it’s clear that you lack the capacity to make that distinction.
“I on the other hand have and will continue to defend the first principles upon which this nation was established. ”
No you won’t. You can’t because you don’t understand them. Here’s a link to an Onion article that satirizes your particular brand of cognitive dissonance-
Here’s a question for you- what epistemology is associated with Classic Liberalism?
“And until you can prove the founding fathers did not legitimize our society and form of government on those classical liberal principles then you are simply wasting my time.”
Nice dodge. This isn’t a debate about the founding fathers or the legitimacy of our government, it’s a discussion of your complete ignorance in the philosophy that you continue to pretend to have an understanding of. I understand how you would want to redirect the argument down a different avenue, but you don’t have the capacity to confuse me with such obvious diversions, boy.
I demand an apology!
“I’m not defending Locke or classic liberalism, I’m just explaining it.”
And based on your caustic rhetoric; doing so from a very weak foundation.
I on the other hand have and will continue to defend the first principles upon which this nation was established. And until you can prove the founding fathers did not legitimize our society and form of government on those classical liberal principles then you are simply wasting my time. What is it you understand that the framers did not?
Olly, you are debating with an ANARCHIST about the validity of government. Think about it. Think about arguing with Occupy Wall Street. How do you argue the valid basis for government with someone who does not believe any government is legitimate? He obviously craves disorder rather than the order that a government brings.
Furthermore, this anarchist, for the reason of promoting confusion, has an avatar of a lawyer, one of the greatest evangelicals of the 19th century, President of Oberlin College, an advocate of Christian Perfection, with a very logical and rational mind, supporter of government, law, and order, and probably as far away from anarchism as a person can get. I have read many of his writings and highly recommend them. But this guy called Anarchist has no clue, which is why he resorts to ad hominem epithets at every turn. His goal is disorder and confusion. Who can abide that?
davidm2575 there appears to be an exodus of sorts of those who crave straw man and ad hominem for defense of noble anarchy disguised as stompy feet hissy fit children throwing temper tantrums because they can’t get away with breaking the law without paying the price and —– they have to work for a living.
“The Federal Bureau of Prisons, back in the 1980’s, dropped rehabilitation as it’s goal. ”
That such nonsense that I shouldn’t have to waste time explaining it to you. Your idea that the criminal justice system locks people up “just because”, with no goal beyond keeping them confined for a set period of time is ludicrous. Deciding not to force inmates to attend classes doesn’t equal abandoning the idea of rehabilitation for criminals.
“using the term civil society or even political society is to contrast being in the state of nature. ”
Jeez, now I feel like an idiot for introducing you to the term “State of Nature”. However, I get a little chuckle from it, since I know you probably searched for it in Google maps for an hour.
Olly, you can’t fake understanding of a philosophy with people that do understand that philosophy. The more you try, the more foolish you look. And since you are already so far away from reality on this subject that it looks like you’re auditioning for Fox news, you don’t need to put any more time into looking foolish. Taking quotes out of context that you found on google isn’t helping your case either.
Does John Locke believe that everyone in a society is a member of Civil Society?
” These men having, as I say, forfeited their lives and, with it, their liberties, and lost their estates, and being in the state of slavery, not capable of any property, cannot in that state be considered as any part of civil society, the chief end whereof is the preservation of property.”
Obviously he doesn’t. In a Republic, there are two different spheres- the commonwealth (including the people, land, property and wealth of a nation) and Civil Society. Where do you suppose the term “commoners” came from? Why do you think one house of parliament in the UK is called the House of Commons, and why do you think it’s different from the House of Lords?
Rousseau on Civil Society-
“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”
Regarding the state of nature, you say-
“If you would use some reason you would realize that it makes no sense to trade away your natural rights for the pleasure of civil society.”
I don’t need to defend whether it makes sense or not. Just because I’m explaining it to you doesn’t mean that I agree with it. I think Locke’s idea of the state of nature vs civil society is equal to Orwell’s “Slavery is freedom” quote from 1984.
“The whole point of leaving the state of nature is to better secure your rights and those of the civil society you are joining. ”
Halfway true. We don’t join civil society to “secure the rights” of that society. However, the reality is that the State of Nature described by Locke is nonsensical because it derives from his “blank slate” skeptical philosophy. He doesn’t acknowledge that we are genetically social animals that will always form societies when gathered in numbers. He just built upon the European disdain for tribal societies and offered a feeble explanation of them because a large portion of the European economy was provided by slaughtering or enslaving tribal societies and stealing their resources.
“This is another statement that proves we do not “trade” away our natural rights (as you say) by entering into civil society because if we did, then we would be powerless to break this political band. ”
That’s Hobbes view, by the way. However, as I said earlier, I’m not defending Locke or classic liberalism, I’m just explaining it.
Anachist 2.0 – Locke was an idealist who had a vague idea that really did not meet with reality. The Plains Indians and the Mongel hordes fought all the time yet fences nothing. They were always on the move.
Paul C. Schulte wrote: “Locke was an idealist who had a vague idea that really did not meet with reality. The Plains Indians and the Mongel hordes fought all the time yet fences nothing. They were always on the move.”
Paul, for sake of clarification, the quote given previously about the fence was from Rousseau, not Locke. Two very different philosophers. Rousseau was a Genevian greatly admired by the French, if that tells you much. He was very anti-authoritarian. In his mind, savages were in the more natural state. Anarchists love him. Locke’s concept of the right to property focused upon one’s labor. A person had no right to property that he could not work. From Locke’s perspective, you cannot just fence more land than you need and then call it yours. It is your labor that defines your property, not the fence you erect for security.
davidm – the thing about philosophers is that there will be another one with another theory next week. Each disagrees with the last. In this case I disagree with both because history proves them wrong.
“That’s funny. You know why? Because it shows that you have absolutely no idea what the term “civil society” means, but you used it anyway to try to look intelligent.”
Ignoring the remora and responding to your comments will be my pleasure.
I’m not sure how “polite” society entered into the discussion but had you been intellectually honest you would know that using the term civil society or even political society is to contrast being in the state of nature.
“Those who are united into one body, and have a common established law and judicature to appeal to, with authority to decide controversies between them, and punish offenders, are in civil society one with another: but those who have no such common appeal, I mean on earth, are still in the state of nature, each being, where there is no other, judge for himself, and executioner; which is, as I have before shewed it, the perfect state of nature.” Locke
“According to Locke, Natural Rights exist in a state of nature. We trade them for a Social Contract in order to live in society.”
If you would use some reason you would realize that it makes no sense to trade away your natural rights for the pleasure of civil society. The whole point of leaving the state of nature is to better secure your rights and those of the civil society you are joining. Therefore, what you are trading away is the enforcement (executive) power you had in the state of nature.
“Where-ever therefore any number of men are so united into one society, as to quit every one his executive power of the law of nature, and to resign it to the public, there and there only is a political, or civil society.”
“But though men, when they enter into society, give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of by the legislative, as the good of the society shall require; yet it being only with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse) the power of the society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to extend farther, than the common good; but is obliged to secure every one’s property, by providing against those three defects above mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy.”
“Do you see how Jefferson makes it clear that Natural Rights are assumed only after the “political bands which have connected them” (i.e. Social Contract)?”
The point of that statement is to declare the people have a natural right (self-evident truth) to remove themselves from whatever political society they find themselves and that this right comes from nature. This is another statement that proves we do not “trade” away our natural rights (as you say) by entering into civil society because if we did, then we would be powerless to break this political band. Jefferson continues to explain the source of these natural rights and the actual legitimate purpose for government.
“If I were humiliating myself like that, I’d quit spouting off and crack a book; learn what I’m saying before I attempt to pass myself off as an expert.”
You would do well to heed your own advice. I have never claimed to be an expert in these matters and I enjoy the opportunity to learn something new every day. Please do try again and by all means, invite your groupie to read whatever reference you are using before trying to form a sentence.
Paul is just thinking about his Sheriff.
Nick – our Sheriff has instituted chain gangs for both men and women much to the distress of faint hearted liberals in the community.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons, back in the 1980’s, dropped rehabilitation as it’s goal. It didn’t make a lotta news because people don’t care about prisoners. It was a common sense move. The BOP still offers all types of rehab programs, particularly involving AODA issues. But, the Bureau came to see what all in AA understand on a profound level, that being you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help. When I worked for the BOP in the 70’s, rehabilitation was the buzzword and inmates were forced to be involved in programs. It was counterproductive. Inmates who didn’t want to be in the program would sabotage them for inmates who truly did want to get better. I saw it first hand. So, when someone tells you the “the point of prison is rehabilitation” they are simply wrong. The primary purpose of the dominant prison system in this country, the Federal BOP, is not rehabilitation. It is incarceration. And, the BOP does incarceration well.
Imprisonment does not make one the property of the government. It creates a state of involuntary servitude. You apparently do not understand the legal distinction. Yeah, yeah, I know. When I was in boot camp I was told that I was the property of the U.S. Army. You are confusing drill sergeants with constitutional scholars.
Mike A – I am just thinking like Barack Obama.
Paul. Mike A.has far more credibility on any given subject than you do.
Chuckling…natural rights, not so “natural” after all. So easily taken away. Anarchist made quick work of that one, that was outstanding.
Slavery in the penal system and good masters, what a concept. Mike A explained the error of David’s concept of penal slavery excellently as usual.
Anyone want to take this one on?
“I work much with the poor, and it is very difficult not to find a poor person these days who is not a criminal. Many are liars, cheaters, thieves, murderers, etc.I believe in second chances. Many who do not have a criminal history are simply smarter and have not been caught, and probably never will get caught.”
I wonder, how many in general society believe that the vast majority of poor people are “criminals”? Is it truly that “difficult to find one that isn’t a criminal”? This is actually the more outrageous of the two outrageous comments by David M. It is even worse than Romney’s 47% slur on Americans of limited means.
Inga – Mike A is incorrect about penal slavery. It still exists. Here is the way it works, since Mike A has no idea.
As a convict you are the property (slave) of a county or state or federal government (yes the military uses it). Some people are sentenced to hard labor to begin with. That does not mean they get to sit in their cells and watch TV. Others are put on work crews (optional) or the food and perqs are reduced if they do not. These crews can be leased to private entities if the law allows.
” If a member of our civil society is found guilty of violating the social contract then that person should have no expectation of equal treatment under the law.”
That’s funny. You know why? Because it shows that you have absolutely no idea what the term “civil society” means, but you used it anyway to try to look intelligent. “Civil Society” and “polite society” are two different things. Civil Society has nothing to do with civility, it’s the section of society whose relationship with government are voluntary because they are necessary for the government to govern.
“That person’s actions have led to a disablement of his natural right to life”
And the laughs just keep coming! What, did someone hand you a flyer on Classic Liberal philosophy that you sort of skimmed? According to Locke, Natural Rights exist in a state of nature. We trade them for a Social Contract in order to live in society. To illustrate that point, here’s a quote from the declaration of independance-
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them. . .”
Do you see how Jefferson makes it clear that Natural Rights are assumed only after the “political bands which have connected them” (i.e. Social Contract)?
“his natural right to life (in some cases), liberty, property, pursuit of happiness.”
And there’s the misquote from the Declaration of Independence. Man this is hilarious! Have you no shame? Do you not feel even slightly embarrassed trying so hard to pretend that you know what you’re talking about while offering a completely ignorant view classic of liberalism? If I were humiliating myself like that, I’d quit spouting off and crack a book; learn what I’m saying before I attempt to pass myself off as an expert.
“If he should desire to have his natural rights re-enabled”
This is too much. You make absolutely no sense. I dare you to try to present a cohesive philosophy in which rights are endowed by nature (which means that they are derived genetically) but which can be taken or given at the whim of other people. That’s like suggesting that we punish criminals by changing their race, but then when they have proven themselves worthy, we’ll just change it back again.
“The point of prison is a lack of freedom.”
No Dave, that is not the point of prison. The point of prison is rehabilitation.
“If you want to grow a beard, don’t slit someone’s throat.”
Do you think anyone respects you for reducing questions to shallow, childish rhetoric? They don’t. That habit just makes you appear to be mentally incompetent.
I understand what you are saying, but I believe that your interpretation of the Thirteenth Amendment is flawed. The Constitution does not permit slavery under any circumstances, including conviction of a crime. One of the rules of statutory construction is known as the last antecedent rule. In the case of the Thirteenth Amendment, the phrase “except as a punishment…” refers to and modifies only the words “involuntary servitude.” I take it to mean the right of the state to sentence a convicted person to prison and to require that the person perform labor under the direction of the state.
Following the Civil War, it was common in the South for legislatures to effectively retain institutionalized slavery by enacting laws mandating prison time for the most trivial of offenses, and permitting convicts to be “leased” to private persons as laborers. This practice continued for many years despite legislation attempting to stop it. This is one of the reasons I am opposed to the privatization of the prison system.
My interpretation recognizes the distinction between “slavery” and “involuntary servitude.” The term “slavery” imports the notion of ownership (under the old state laws with which I am familiar, a slave was regarded as chattel, a species of property). “Involuntary servitude” is a state of being under the control of another while retaining the status of an autonomous moral actor. Involuntary servitude may be lawful (as in the case of a convicted criminal) or unlawful (as in the case of farm workers maintained in conditions violative of peonage laws).
There is a further distinction to be made under natural law theory. While indentured servitude (as distinguished from involuntary servitude) is a form of contractual relationship, one cannot enter into a binding contract conveying the ownership of one’s personhood to another.
For these reasons, it is incorrect to treat “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” as interchangeable terms. Prisoners are not chattel and the state cannot be a slave master, benevolent or otherwise.
Your perspective is not at all unpopular among modern liberal lawyers. They seem to have a deep visceral reaction to the notion that society still allows slavery under the exception clause of the Thirteenth Amendment. So they have written articles in which linguistic gymnastics are used to find a way out of the dilemma. The truth is, however, that modern prisoners often suffer a worse, more inhumane form of slavery than what had existed among African Americans enslaved by benevolent white plantation owners in the South during the early 1800’s.
Note how candidly the Virginia Supreme Court in Ruffian v. Commonwealth described prisoners to be “civilly dead” and said, “For the time being, during his term of service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the State. He has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is for the time being the slave of the State.”
So this Supreme Court apparently had no problem considering prisoners of the State to be slaves of the State.
Because your analysis considers the definition of the words slavery and involuntary servitude, let’s look at the definitions of these words in Black’s Law Dictionary.
Law Dictionary: What is SLAVE? definition of SLAVE (Black’s Law Dictionary)
A person who is wholly subject to the will of another; one who has no freedom of action, but whose person and services are wholly under the control of another.
From my perspective, this definition certainly seems to apply to modern prisoners. Now let’s look at Involuntary Servitude.
Law Dictionary: What is INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE? definition of INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE (Black’s Law Dictionary)
term use when a person is forced to work against his will. Slavery.
Notice how this well respected legal dictionary uses the word “Slavery” in the definition of the phrase “Involuntary Servitude.”
The U.S. Supreme Court explained that the phrase “Involuntary Servitude” is a broader term than slavery, and that it incorporates all forms of slavery within it.
“The exception of servitude as a punishment for crime gives an idea of the class of servitude that is meant. The word servitude is of larger meaning than slavery, as the latter is popularly understood in this country, and the obvious purpose was to forbid all shades and conditions of African slavery. It was very well understood that, in the form of apprenticeship for long terms, as it had been practiced in the West India Islands, on the abolition of slavery by the English government, or by reducing the slaves to the condition of serfs attached to the plantation, the purpose of the article might have been evaded if only the word slavery had been used. The case of the apprentice slave, held under a law of Maryland, liberated by Chief Justice Chase on a writ of habeas corpus under this article, illustrates this course of observation.”
Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. 16 Wall. 69
The highest court maintains that the phrase “involuntary servitude” includes all shades and conditions of African slavery. Therefore, even if we accept your analysis relying upon the rule of last antecedent, it is apparent that all forms of slavery are included, and the exception clause therefore applies to slavery as well as to all other forms of involuntary servitude.
The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed this perspective that involuntary servitude includes all forms of slavery in Butler v. Perry 240 U.S. 328 (1916):
“The term involuntary servitude, as used in the Thirteenth Amendment, was intended to cover those forms of compulsory labor akin to African slavery which, in practical operation, would tend to produce like results, and not to interdict enforcement of duties owed by individuals to the state.”
I do not view this case as particularly difficult. The decision was the correct one under the express language of the statute and case precedent. It is controversial only because the plaintiff is a Muslim.
Whether the statute itself is a wise modification of the Lemon test is an entirely different matter.
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