Seattle, WA – Court: Inmate Denied Torah Can Sue Organization

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    Photo illustrationSeattle, WA – A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit brought by a Washington inmate who was denied Jewish reading materials.

    Dennis Florer is serving 10 years for stealing a truck from a car dealership in 2003 and running over the salesman.

    He claimed he was Jewish and requested a Torah and other items from Jewish Prisoner Services International, a private organization contracted by the state to provide prison religious services.

    The organization declined to give Florer the materials because he failed to show he was really Jewish – either by demonstrating he had a Jewish mother or had properly converted.

    A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit after finding that the private organization was not liable under federal civil rights law, but a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit disagreed Wednesday, saying the group acted in concert with the state.

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    20 COMMENTS

    1. All these “born-again’ yidden who suddenly discover their yiddeshkeit in prison and demand glatt kosher food, sifrei torah etc. are a joke. Their demands will make it more difficult for legitimante yidden to get accomodation to their real needs.

    2. wow a real kiddush hashem! The judge cant believe that hes really a jew cuz a real jew doesnt steal or injure on purpose ( and if he does, then why does he need the jewish reading material?)

      • Yes, a torah. Nobody said anything about a scroll. Why are you even raising that question? A printed torah is all he’s asking for, and any normal reader can see that. Neither “sefer” nor “scroll” appear anywhere in the article, so it must be your imagination that’s supplying them.

          • Why should I? It’s not my job. The state isn’t paying me for it. And he’s not my brother, so what do I care whether he gets one or not? It’s the defendant’s job to give him one, they’re being paid to do so, and they should do their job.

            • You know very welll it is quite easy to prove one is jewish. You also know that all the prisons supply kosher food, seforim and even things like matzos and shofer etc. to jewish inmates.
              If the story is true as presented, and there is no reason to disbelieve it. There must be some reason why the prison refused. Did he eat chometz on Pesach? Does he eat only kosher food?

    3. They give out Torahs? One of those scrolls made of animal skin and mounted on wooden rods? Can the prisoner keep it after he’s released?

    4. But the appeals court overruled. Does this mean that anybody on a government contract must behave as the government, and in this case give a Torah to apparently a non-Jew for fear of discrimination. Scary!

    5. not even a chashuve rebbe needs a sefer torah unless c’v there are so many fum yidden in his cell block that they acutally have a minyan and read the torah on shabbos and yom tov. If we have that many frum yidden in any local prison outside of new york, california or florida we are really in trouble.

    6. When the article mentions Torah it doesn’t mean a sefer torah but rather a Chumash which most non religious or non Jews refer to as a Torah!!!

    7. Oh yay! We need mass emails! We need kinnus tefillas! We need to stop anti semitism in places where so many of our brethren live; prison and the court system!

    8. The inmate is manipulating the system. Jewish Prisoner Services does a great job in helping halachically Jewish people (people Jewish according to Jewish law)

      The gov. allows a person to claim to be whatever religion s/he wants and it makes no difference if the person practices or not.

      Many prisons have religiuos libraries that inmates can use – including “Torah (chumashim) and prayerbooks.
      I wonder how often this inmate uses the material that is there.

      • It doesn’t matter. If JPS is acting as the state’s agent, then it should give him a chumash. Unless they suspect that he wants it in order to defile it in some way; in such a case they can claim their own first amendment rights, or they can put conditions on it, by saying that if he defiles it then he’ll have proven that he shouldn’t have got it in the first place.

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