I have written many times before about how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has become a menace and is being used by religious people to gain exemptions from following all manner of laws, the Hobby Lobby contraception case being one of the more egregious examples.
John Walker Lindh, popularly known as the American Taliban after he was captured in Afghanistan in the early days of that war, has protested that the rule prohibiting prisoners from wearing their pants above the knee violates the religious freedoms he is entitled to under RFRA.
Lindh, 33, filed Dec. 29 for class action status for all Muslim inmates in the Bureau of Prisons system, requesting that they be allowed to shorten their prison pants. Lindh, who first filed suit on the issue in May 2014, claims “it is a clear tenet of Islam that Muslim men are prohibited from wearing pants below their ankles” and that a Bureau of Prisons policy that “Islamic inmates may not hem or wear their pants above the ankle” violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Last week’s filing included the declarations of 45 inmates in facilities across the United States; they signed on to Lindh’s claim that the policy denying shorter pants violates religious laws. One inmate said that he needed to shorten his pants, because Islamic teachings dictate “everything below the ankles is in Hellfire.”
Naturally this has opened up a theological debate on how god views short pants and a Muslim chaplain in the Bureau of Prisons has weighed in.
A Bureau of Prisons imam responded in September 2014, arguing that there is no uniformity of opinion or practice in Muslim jurisprudence regarding this claim. “While it may be the religious personal preference for some followers of a particular school or methods to wear their pants above the ankle, it is not possible for a single Muslim to state that his personal preference or viewpoint represents the sincere beliefs, preferences, or positions of all Islamic inmates in the Bureau of Prisons,” the chaplain wrote in a declaration to the court.
I don’t think we have heard the last of this case nor of the many ways that people are going to use RFRA to get out of doing things they disagree with.