Defending the right of prisoners to religious expression.

With our colleagues from the Project on Freedom of Religion & Belief and Loyola Law School Professor Aaron Caplan, we filed a brief in support of an observant Sunni Muslim who follows the Hanafi tradition and wishes to exercise his religion by growing a fist-length beard and by wearing a kufi (a white, seamless, knit cap with small holes). But rules of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice do not allow it. We argued that Mr. Ali’s beard and kufi constitute sincere “religious exercise” and that TDCJ’s insistence that the court defer to prison officials would gut statutory protections intended to promote religious observance in prison. Experts agree that religious exercise in prisons and jails improves behavior and lowers recidivism rates.

On May 2, 2016, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of Mr. Ali.


5th Circuit Court of Appeals



Case number

No. 14–41165