Asatru · prisoner rights

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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