Supreme Court Hears Arguments In RLUIPA Damages Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Sossamon v. Texas (full transcript). At issue is whether states and state officials in their official capacities may be sued for damages under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Scotus Blog has links to all the merits and amicus briefs as well as to the other relevant primary source documents in the case. The case was brought by a prisoner who objected to the prison's policy of prohibiting congregational worship in the prison's chapel. He claimed that alternative worship venues did not give him access to Christian symbols or furnishings such as an altar or cross. In the case, the 5th Circuit held that RLUIPA did not clearly alert the state of Texas that it would waive sovereign immunity for damage actions by accepting federal funding for its prisons. The text of RLUIPA merely provides that a plaintiff may obtain "appropriate relief" against a governmental defendant. (See prior posting).

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