Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Asatru Prisoner News: Bryant v. Woodhall

Over in Tennessee, we hear about a case involving a number of Asatruar who claim they are being denied the right to worship:
Plaintiffs assert that they are followers of the Odinic or Asatru faith... seeking accommodations that would allow him and other Odinist inmates to worship as they claim their faith requires. ... The requested accommodations included two hours of group worship per week; the purchase or donation of an altar cloth, mead horn cup, ritual Thor's hammer, rune staff, oak blessing bowl, oath ring, and rune set for group worship; recognition by TDOC as a legitimate religion; the purchase or donation of a rune set, religious amulet, mead horn cup and altar cloth for personal in-cell worship; and the observance of a religious feast day. ...
The TDOC Religious Activities Committee denied Former Plaintiff McDougal's request on the grounds that each requested accommodation posed a threat to institutional safety and security. 
Now, I can certainly see that having an oaken hammer or staff could be construed as being a potential security threat. The former is, after all, literally based on the design of a weapon. But "two hours of group worship per week" hardly seems like such a threat in and of itself; it certainly sounds like the prison is simply reacting to Asatru/Odinism directly, and wanting to squash it simply because some people use the term as a screen for gang-related activity. And some groups absolutely do use a Thor's hammer to sanctify space, so it's certainly a legitimate request in and of itself.

Fortunately, the court agreed, and denied the defendant's motion for a summary judgement. The Asatruars' case can proceed. Updates will be posted here as they become available.

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