SCOTUS up angle1Written by Don Byrd

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Arkansas inmate who argued the state’s ban on wearing even a 1/2-inch beard violated his religious liberty rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The decision reversed lower court rulings dismissing his claims. You can read details and highlights of the Supreme Court opinion in an earlier post.

Following the ruling, the Baptist Joint Committee released a statement applauding the decision. Here is a snippet:

“Everyone’s religious liberty is precious, but that of incarcerated persons is particularly fragile,” said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the BJC. “Both RLUIPA and the Court’s opinion appropriately balance that right with the need of penal institutions to preserve prison safety and security.”

You can read the press release here.

In other reactions:

Professor Eugene Volokh argues the Court’s broad reading of RLUIPA’s religious liberty protections (which he thought an appropriate interpretation of the law) “will lead judges to take [religious exemption] claims much more seriously — and will embolden litigators to bring such claims.”

Professor Noah Feldman believes Justice Alito’s opinion went further than necessary to reach its conclusion. Specifically, he contends the ruling could serve “as an invitation for the court to dream up its own policy alternatives in order to reject those the government claims to have considered.”

You can read the Court’s opinion here.