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10th Circuit Weighs 1st Amendment Rights for Muslim Prisoners

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in March, 1972, reversed and remanded a § 1983 complaint wherein Petitioner alleged certain religious liberties, violations, and mail issues.

Prior to the instant action, Petitioner Eddie Hoggro brought his cause before the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Oklahoma in 1971. That court dismissed the claim, noting that in 1968 Hoggro pursued the same issues and, following an evidentiary hearing, the institution where he was housed did in fact changed their policies to accommodate free Muslim practice. The district court relied on the 1968 evidentiary hearing and held the claim at bar was an attempt to relegate a previous action.

Petitioner alleged prison officials interfered with the practice of their religion by denying certain publications such as Muhammad Speaks, the Holy Quran, and Message to the Black Man; by denying access to mail to communicate with teacher Elijah Muhammad; by denying access to a qualified Muslim minister; and by denying a diet commensurate with their religious imperatives.

The court of appeals held that an evidentiary inquiry was necessary to ascertain whether Petitioner’s First Amendment rights had been violated, making it clear that the state would have the burden of showing that his literature, this religious practice, would have a detrimental effect on prison security and discipline. The cause was reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with the views expressed in the opinion. See: Hoggro v. Pontesso, 456 F2d 917 (C.A. 10, 1972).

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Related legal case

Hoggro v. Pontesso