Buddhist inmate wins religious lawsuit

A Buddhist prison inmate in Texas has won a lawsuit over rules for religious practice.

The prison system requires religious services to be performed by a chaplain or approved religious volunteers. Muslims were allowed to hold religious meetings, but chaplains had declined to lead Buddhist services because of lack of knowledge or because it conflicts with their own beliefs, according to Kelly Shackleford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute.

A federal appeals court stands by the Buddhist inmate.

“Basically what the court said is, ‘Look, you’ve got to give people the same rights’ — that you can’t say that there are some faiths that have a right to meet together and pray together and other faiths don’t have that right,” he notes.

Shackleford provides an example. “They were allowing the Muslims to meet and to have their religious service, and the idea that the Buddhists weren’t allowed to do that at the same time is discrimination,” he adds, “and that’s something that the government can’t do.”

The court did not provide direction to the prison system on how to implement services to Buddhist inmates.

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