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DOJ Supporting Inmates In Ceremonial Tobacco Suit

July 16, 2012, 11:30 AM


The U.S. Department of Justice is supporting Native American inmates in their lawsuit challenging South Dakota's ban on tobacco in religious ceremonies.

The Justice Department in a brief filed late Friday says the state's position runs contrary to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the position the United States has previously taken on the issue.

A group of Native American inmates in 2009 filed a federal lawsuit against the South Dakota Department of Corrections, saying a prison policy that bans the use of tobacco during religious ceremonies is discriminatory.

State officials say ceremonial tobacco inside the state penitentiary was becoming increasingly abused and inmates had been caught separating it from their pipe mixtures and prayer ties.

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