Struggle for Religious Freedom
For most of U.S. history, natives were not accorded the formal freedom of religious exercise. A right included in the first Amendment. The free exercise clause finally came to include natives in 1988 with the Indian Civil Rights Act, even though in 1978 Congress established the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, or AIRFA. These proposals ultimately failed in Congress. The amendment known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act managed to succeed. Then in 2000, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act was established. Nevertheless, this act has the potential o also be ruled unconstitutional if the issue ever reaches the Supreme Court.
For centuries Natives experienced internal colonialism, forced assimilation, exploitation, discrimination, and cultural degradation. One of the steps ultimately required to achieve religious equality, will be the allowance and encouragement of Native religious practice and spiritual observance in prison.
Know your rights! Restrictions on a prisoner’s right to religious literature violates the first Amendment. Prison officials are not required to provide religious objects as long as inmates are free to purchase or obtain objects themselves. They cannot ban some objects and not others w/o justification. Prisoners have success with claims protecting religious dietary practices. Courts have ordered such diets be made available to inmates. Rejecting efforts by officials to charge inmates for religious diets. The religious and spiritual requirements of incarcerated natives are clearly not being met to a satisfactory degree.