A three-judge panel has ruled that a Muslim inmate can make the case that federal religious freedom laws allow him to conjugal visits with his multiple wives while held in a Pennsylvania prison.
The Pennsylvania Record reports that Gregory Thomas is suing state officials for the right to have conjugal visits:
Thomas, who is Muslim, claims the conjugal visitation policy has a detrimental affect on his marriage because his wives – multiple spouses are allowed in his religion – are threatening to divorce him under Islamic rules if they are unable to have intercourse with him.
The plaintiff asserts that the policy constitutes an unconstitutional infringement on his rights under the First Amendment to practice his religion.
Thomas, who also says the policy is discriminatory and violates equal protection because the homosexual prison population can engage in sexual conduct with one another, additionally claims the conjugal visit policy violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
The three-judge panel held that previous rulings had already suggested no inmate has a "right" under normal circumstances to conjugal visits. Religious freedom laws, however, are by design harder to be set aside. The Department of Corrections, the judges said, had not proved their security concerns outweigh Thomas's right to practice his religion. It refused the DOC's motion to dismiss that element of Thomas's lawsuit.