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Kansas DOC Restrictions on Thelema Religion Upheld

The plaintiff complained of restrictions on his religious practice as a follower of the First Hermetic Order of Thelema, a religion founded in 1904 by Aleister Crowley. Prison officials recognized the religion and arranged for a visit from Thelemic clergy from the Khensu-Ra-Oasis in Bellevue, Nebraska, and sought volunteers from that site and from the Ra-Here-Behutet Camp in Kansas City to assist with Thelemic spiritual needs.

The restrictions are upheld under the Turner standard. The court first notes that defendants have expended much effort to accommodate the Thelemic religion. The denial of some allegedly religious items (sword, dagger, etc.) clearly serves interests in safety and security, and a Thelemic religious authority said they weren't necessary anyway. They would create a ripple effect because others would want them too.

Defendants' censorship of chapter 12 of Aleister Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice is upheld because it discusses blood sacrifices, "a topic that could clearly pose a threat to prison safety and security." (1228) A letter between the plaintiff and another prisoner on the same subject was also properly censored.

The Thelemic group is only allowed to practice once a week and is required to have outside clergy present. Religious groups need not be treated identically as long as each has a reasonable opportunity to exercise its beliefs. The court does not refer to any official justification of the differences.

A limit of $30 a payroll period on outside items does not deny equal protection as applied to the plaintiff; it is an incentive program and the plaintiff has not achieved a level in the program permitting greater expenditures. The limit is not an ex post facto violation because it does not increase his punishment. [Note this limit was later enjoined in Prison Legal News v. Werholtz].

A limit on the number and value of books the plaintiff can possess does not deny due process or equal protection. See: Maberry v. McKune, 24 F.Supp.2d 1222 (D.Kan. 1998).

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Related legal case

Maberry v. McKune