RELST 233: Class Hypothetical (Sp2017)

Scenario A: Inmate Green

In 1978, David Green was convicted of committing armed robbery and manslaughter, and was sentenced to life plus 10 years in the Georgia state penal system.

In 2008, Green began to identify as a Jew, changed his name to Moses Ben-Israel, and requested a diet that was compatible with the Jewish dietary rules (kashrut). The prison warden originally denied the request, citing suspicion of Green’s religious sincerity and the additional cost of a kosher prison meal. Green sued the prison and the state of Georgia, charging that the warden (as a representative of the state) was restricting his religious freedom. Green won, and was granted to right to a kosher diet.

This past year, Green asked the prison chaplain to reserve a room where he and three other inmates could meet for “Torah study. The chaplain, an ordained Methodist minister, contacted Jewish Prison International, a Jewish organization that provides services and advice for Jewish inmates.

The chaplain believed that she was following Rabbi Stein’s advice when she denied Green’s request: 1) Green does not have a total of 10 Jewish men (a minyan) necessary for reading the Torah, and 2) there was no rabbi who could come to the prison regularly to lead the study. When Green complains that 1) other (Christian and Muslim) groups are given permission to meet, and 2) the chaplain has misunderstood Jewish practice, the warden indicates that, nonetheless, there are questions about Green’s religious sincerity, as well as security concerns about 4 inmates congregating unsupervised.

Green again sues the prison and the stat, claiming that they are denying his right to practice his religion.

Scenario B: Full Religious Protection

In fulfilling a campaign promise, President Trump signs an Executive Order granting legal protection to specific providers of public service (privately owned companies and individual employees) who because of sincerely-held religious beliefs refuse to serve customers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Abitall Bakery and Café, owned and staffed entirely by members of the Abitall family, refuses to serve African-Americans and Jews, basing their refusal on Genesis 9:20-27 and Luke 22:1-6.

An African-American customer and a Jewish customer sue the Abitall Bakery and Café for racial discrimination and violation of their civil rights. Jim Abitall, in turn, files a lawsuit against the federal government, charging that, by granting religion-based exemptions for gender discrimination but not religion-based exemptions for racial discrimination, the federal government has preferred one religious viewpoint over another, thus violating the “No Establishment” clause of the First Amendment.