US court rules in favour of Muslim inmate

A Muslim inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto didn’t get a fair shake when he filed a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Charles Mack, 52, sued in federal court in Johnstown. He wrote that a corrections officer slapped a label on his back reading “I love bacon.” The officer later told him, “there’s no good Muslim, except a dead Muslim,” according to the complaint. Mr. Mack complained, and was fired from his commissary job, he said.

He sued, claiming that his rights to free speech and exercise of religion were being violated, he was being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and he faced retaliation and a hostile work environment. Six weeks later, U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson dismissed his case.

The 3rd Circuit judges found that Mr. Mack’s claims met legal thresholds that warrant further review. It rejected Judge Gibson’s view that the “I love bacon” sign was a “junior high school level prank,” that spurred only “offended religious sensibilities.”

The appeals court ordered the U.S. District Court to take another look at the complaint and allow Mr. Mack to amend it if warranted.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7 May 2011