Now There’s a Sincerely Held Religious Belief

Dennis Walker is a prison inmate who tried to emulate so many other Christians (he calls himself a “Christian Odinist,” which is common for white supremacist types) by claiming that having someone not white as a cellmate violates his “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just unsurprisingly said no to that claim.

The inmate, Dennis Walker, is a devout racist who identifies himself as an Aryan Christian Odinist, which he said forbids him from integrating with or performing required “warding” rituals in front of members of other races.

The state refused to exempt Walker from its integrated housing policy, arguing that it would potentially violate the Equal Protection Clause by granting the white supremacist’s request to be assigned only an “Aryan” cellmate…

He sued the secretary of the Department of Corrections and the prison’s warden, claiming his rights were violated under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Walker claimed that having a cellmate from another race would prevent him from communicating with the gods during a “spiritual circle of Odinist Warding.”

It’s quite an absurd argument, of course, but I’d love to hear those who demand such exceptions explain why it’s tyranny when anyone they agree with has to follow the law everyone else has to follow even if it violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs” but not in this circumstance. If, as they argue, the government can never force anyone to violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” why doesn’t “never” apply here? Or to Muslims, ever?

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  • StevoR

    Erm, well, because we say so ..yeah?

    That’s, um, err, well, that’s convincing and enuff ain’t it? No?

  • StevoR

    Also Teh Muzzlinnnzzz! Teh Gheys!! The Jooz!! Dey not like us so uh, no same rulez yah??!!! 11ty

  • John Pieret

    What about the rights of the poor minority prisoner who will be pent up with asshole?

  • StevoR

    @ ^ John Pieret : Well who doesn’t have an asshole?

    Be far crueler to remove someone’s rectum first wouldn’t it? 😉

    /Pedant mode off

  • John Pieret

    StevoR

    “this” somehow dropped out before “asshole” but such is the vagaries of internet commenting.

  • Michael Heath

    John Pieret writes:

    What about the rights of the poor minority prisoner who will be pent up with asshole?

    Well . . . If the Christian Odinist is a coward and the minority prisoner is big, strong, and a sadist; I’d argue the state just conveyed a welcomed privilege on the minority prisoner. [/snark]

  • Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    What about the rights of the poor minority prisoner who will be pent up with this asshole?

    He’s a prisoner and a minority. He is literally beneath the notice of the judicial system, except inasmuch as he can be used as a tool to punish someone else.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    And is it so hard for the guards to ensure my room has fresh flowers? This prison is getting a poor review on Yelp!

  • StevoR

    @John Pieret : True that. Am certainly in no position to talk when it comes to such errors, bein’ one o’th’worse typers here & all – not that its ever stopped me. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • StevoR

    ^ 5

  • John Pieret

    Michael:

    There is always that possibility … maybe a Mike Tyson (during his halcyon days) type? That’s a fight I’d be willing to pay to see.

  • wreck

    Another example of the absurdity of the “deeply held religious belief” argument. You are entitled to practice your religious beliefs in your home, church, or wherever else you’re not interfering with other peoples’ rights. Beyond that, your beliefs don’t get you special privileges.

  • Artor

    Here’s my comment on the Raw Story version of this article:

    Walker is full of shit anyway. You can read the Eddas, and nowhere in them does Odin give two shits about what color anyone’s skin is. What Odin cares about is honor, hospitality, and bravery. Walker sounds like a whiny little weasel, and Odin wouldn’t even consider him worth a Blood Eagle, let alone a follower.

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, These verbal jackboots were made for walking

    @wreck A prisoner’s cell is their home and their church. If this guy’s religious beliefs entail racial segregation, odious as that might be, he ought to be accommodated thus far. Not so if he wants “public” facilities within the prison (e.g. library, group therapy sessions, gym, exercise yard etc.) segregated for his benefit. That would be infringing on the rights of others.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    Would they have seen things differently if he’d claimed to be a Christian Onanist? Then again, I suspect that’s a common practice in prisons seeing as it’s a common one outside of them too.

  • sabrekgb

    Better solution: have prisoners billeted one to a cell. Not only do you make the racists happy(er), but you reduce the amount of violence, to include sexual violence, which is endemic to our inhumane prison system.

    If you want to torture people, be open, direct, and done with it. Don’t let the torture be second-hand, a consequence of conditions deliberately instituted and conveniently ignored in modern prisons.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    I’d love to hear those who demand such exceptions explain why it’s tyranny when anyone they agree with has to follow the law everyone else has to follow even if it violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs” but not in this circumstance.

    Rest assured, whatever their explanation, it will be delivered in fluent Gibberish.

  • Nemo

    I’m sorry, but how the hell does one claim to be simultaneously a Christian and an Odinist? It’s incoherent.

  • marcus

    Fuck this religionist, racist, arrogant dumbass. if he doesn’t like the cellmate assigned by the prison, he can always choose* solitary.

    (Of course, I wouldn’t want to subject anyone else to this asshole’s presence anyway, so I guess he wins.)

    *Solitary against against someone’s will (IMO) should be considered C&U.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/TabbyLavalamp Tabby Lavalamp

    Don’t you see? His mistake was in not demanding that his cell mate not be a gay man or a woman on birth control. As long as your sincerely held religious beliefs are against homosexuality or regulating women’s bodies, you’re golden!

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    As long as your sincerely held religious beliefs are against homosexuality or regulating women’s bodies, you’re golden!

    That.

  • Pen

    On the other hand, a refusal to share a cell with a white supremacist should be considered perfectly legitimate.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    @Pen:

    On the other hand, a refusal to share a cell with a white supremacist should be considered perfectly legitimate.

    Even if white supremacy is his heritage?

  • weatherwax

    John Pieret #3: “What about the rights of the poor minority prisoner who will be pent up with asshole?”

    Good question. Maybe it’ll give him a ‘Cruel and unusual punishment’ defense.

    In any case, in most prisons in this country, whites are in the minority, so if he gives his cellmate too much grief he’ll end up facing prison yard justice.

  • http://lykex.livejournal.com LykeX

    Walker is full of shit anyway. You can read the Eddas, and nowhere in them does Odin give two shits about what color anyone’s skin is.

    But, if I remember correctly, the Hobby Lobby decision specifically made clear that whether the beliefs in question were based in fact or not is irrelevant. All that matters is whether they believe it. E.g. if Hobby Lobby believes that a certain forms of contraception causes abortions, then that belief stands, even if all medical science says otherwise.

    That’s exactly why that decision was a complete clusterfuck. If we allow people’s personal beliefs to trump the facts, situations like this one are inevitable.

  • anubisprime

    LykeX @ 25

    But, if I remember correctly, the Hobby Lobby decision specifically made clear that whether the beliefs in question were based in fact or not is irrelevant. All that matters is whether they believe it. E.g. if Hobby Lobby believes that a certain forms of contraception causes abortions, then that belief stands, even if all medical science says otherwise.

    Well you are probably in a far better position to judge the fall out from that ruling then I, but if what you say is true, and no reason to doubt it as is, then does that not mean that some dipshit can quite legitimately argue that in his, or her, belief that going to prison will violate his / her sincerely held beliefs because the devil made them do it therefore they are not responsible for the crime convicted of.

    Because if it is argued that evidence is not required, one way or the other, the only guiding light is the perps ‘beliefs’ and if that is true the American justice system has quite successfully shot itself in the ass… at least that is the way it seems but there must be some violation in the law now that sees some religio infected dipshits go to jail.

    Could it be expected any compensation for wrongful imprisonment, that might follow such a travesty of justice as violating a personally held belief, would focus the supreme’s on re-jigging the re-jigged?

    Whatever that ruling really was a crock of Demon’s bollix whichever way it is interpreted….and that is my personally held belief 😉

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    Wow. You mean there are actual limits to “religious freedom” in this country.

    I am genuinely surprised.