Dettmer v. Landon (799 F.2d 929)

Dettmer v. Landon
by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

799 F.2d 929 (4th Cir. 1986), is a court case in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that although Wicca was a religion, it was not a violation of the First Amendment to deny a prisoner access to ritual objects.

Court Documents
Opinion of the Court

799 F.2d 929

Herbert Daniel DETTMER, Appellee


Robert LANDON, Director of Corrections, Appellant

No. 85-7514

United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.

Argued April 7, 1986

Decided Sept. 4, 1986

Prison inmate brought federal civil rights suit alleging First Amendment right to free exercise of religion was violated by prison officials refusing to give him access to worship materials. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 617 F.Supp. 592, Richard L. Williams, J., enjoined prison officials, and Director of Corrections appealed. The Court of Appeals, Butzner, Senior Circuit Judge, held that: 1 religion based on witchcraft was “religion” for free exercise clause purposes, but 2 contraband materials were properly denied inmate as reasonably threatening to prison security.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

-929 Mark R. Davis, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Mary Sue Terry, Atty. Gen., Nelson H.C. Fisher, Asst. Atty. Gen., Richmond, Va., John K. Messersmith, IV, Third-Year Law Student, on brief), for appellant. Jeffrey S. Koeze, Third-Year Law Student, Post-Conviction Assistance Project, *930 University of Virginia School of Law (Professor Stephen A. Saltzburg, Supervising Atty., University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Va., on brief), for appellee.

Before RUSSELL and MURNAGHAN, Circuit Judges, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge.