Arkansas inmate says religious rights were violated

The Associated Press
Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to hold a hearing on a prison inmate's allegations that he was denied religious literature needed to practice his Islamic faith.

The high court denied Malik Muntaqim's motion for a summary judgment. But the court ordered Jefferson County District Judge Jodi Raines Dennis to hold a hearing on a motion to prevent prison officials from withholding the material, the Pine Bluff Commercial ( ) reported.

Muntaqim filed the complaint against 22 Department of Correction employees in 2015, alleging they violated his rights for not allowing him access to the Nation of Islam materials.

Dennis denied a motion Muntaqim filed in July for a summary judgment and a preliminary injunction without holding a hearing. The judge said granting an injunction would "alter the status quo between the parties, and Muntaqim had not demonstrated that he could succeed on the merits of the complaint."

State Supreme Court Associate Justice Shawn Womack said that while a hearing isn't necessary for every case, Dennis' ruling was denied based solely on documents she had.

"The appellant in this case has raised allegations which, if proven correct, could constitute substantial violations of religious liberty rights under the First Amendment," he said.

Womack said not holding a hearing was an abuse of the court's discretion.


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