Charles Roberts, 28, of Brownsville, alleges he has asked several times for religious books, pentagrams and a person to lead Wiccan services at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Lopez Unit but has received no assistance from the prison’s chaplain. ...
Under current prison policy, there must be three inmates of the same faith in a given facility before employees will allow them to meet for worship services. An outside volunteer is also required to lead the sessions.
The department has established Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Native American and non-denominational Christian services at all of their prisons. Wiccan volunteers also lead worship sessions at two TDCJ facilities outside of Houston, department spokesman Jason Clark said.
But Roberts – a Brownsville native incarcerated for a 2004 conviction on aggravated assault charges — claims that prison officials failed to even note his religion correctly on his inmate intake forms.
When he told him practiced Wicca – a neo-pagan, nature based religion — an intake officer classified him as "non-denominational," his lawsuit states.
"The fact that my religious preference is said to be non-denominational goes to show that nothing is being done," he wrote.
A number of Texas inmates from various faiths have challenged the prison’s religious policies on similar grounds over the past several years. In nearly every case, federal judges and appeals court justices have found that the department’s guidelines does not put undo restraints on inmates’ ability to practice their faith.
I don't find the policy particularly unreasonable that there must be three inmates of a given faith in a unit to justify holding a worship service, but if they offer Wiccan services at other units I don't see why TDCJ doesn't just offer to transfer the fellow to one of them. It sounds like the failure to provide books and other religious materials may stem from the simple misidentification of religious preference on the intake form.