Commissioner v. Smith, No. 20A128, 592 U.S. ____ (February 11, 2021).
Justice Kagan, with three others, has opined that Alabama failed to meet the strict scrutiny test applicable under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Alabama’s global prohibition on ministerial presence at execution substantially burdens a prisoner’s religious exercise, and Alabama failed to demonstrate that this preclusion is the least restrictive means of advancing the compelling state interest in prison security. As such, the injunction permitting the prisoner to have a religious presence at execution is proper and will not be dissolved.
Justice Thomas, without writing separately, would have granted the petition to dissolve the injunction.
Justice Kavanaugh and Chief Justice Roberts would grant the petition as reflecting a non-discriminatory policy, but would encourage states to implement measures that would fulfill requests such as the inmate’s here and thereby avoid protracted litigation.