The ACLU of Texas filed a brief in support of Muslim inmates who challenged a direct supervision requirement by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that prevented Muslim inmates from worshiping together in accordance with the tenets of their faith. TDCJ implemented a new policy that permitted communal worship only if the services were directly supervised by TDCJ personnel or a “vetted volunteer.” In practice, Christian prisoners received several hours of religious programming per week, while Muslims and other adherents of minority faiths received only one. TDCJ claimed that there were no volunteers to supervise Muslim worship and that it should not be forced to provide staff supervision. Citing the fact that Muslims had been permitted to worship without direct supervision for 35 years, the inmates argued that the direct supervision requirement was a substantial burden on their free exercise rights under the First Amendment and not the least restrictive means for advancing TDCJ’s interests. The district court agreed, and TDCJ appealed to the Fifth Circuit. With our National Prison Project and the Project on Religion & Belief, we filed an amicus brief arguing that communal worship actually contributes to prison safety and inmate rehabilitation.

Date filed

April 30, 2014


5th Cir.

Case number

No. 14-20249