The Supreme Court sided with a witch, a Satanist and a racial separatist Tuesday, upholding a federal law requiring state prisons to accommodate the religious affiliations of inmates.
The court's unanimous ruling addressed a narrow issue: whether the law as written is an unconstitutional government promotion of religion. It is not, justices decided, leaving the door open to future legal challenges on other grounds.
"Religion plays a vital role in rehabilitation," said Derek Gaubatz, director of litigation for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a religious liberty law firm that represents inmates.The law "does not elevate accommodation of religious observances over an institution's need to maintain order and safety," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said from the bench in announcing the decision.
Elizabeth Cooke, a clinical law professor at Ohio State University who represented inmates in the court case, said they will press ahead with accommodation requests, including a five-point star for the witch, called a Wiccan, and hammer charms for prisoners who are members of Asatru and worship old Norse deities.
The racial separatist is an ordained minister of the Christian Identity Church.
"Inmates who practice non-mainstream religions have suffered," Cooke said.
From the SFGate.