According to the Associated Press, a self-proclaimed Satanist recently filed a federal lawsuit against Nevada prison officials in which he argues that the preservatives and additives in prison food violate the tenets of his religious beliefs.
Alex Snelson filed the handwritten complaint in the United States District Court in Reno. In it, he wrote that “[e]ach day that I am effectively forced to eat outside my religious dietary guidelines is a day that I must endure feeling totally and utterly violated, tortured and religiously defiled.”
Snelson is currently serving a two-to-six year prison sentence for possession of a stolen car, methamphetamine, and brass knuckles.
Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Mary Kandaras said that the prison would be required to accommodate Snelson’s request if his dietary requirement was “rooted in religious belief.” However, she added, “[d]etermining if a prisoner’s claim is ‘rooted in religious belief’ requires analyzing whether the prisoner’s claim is related to his sincerely held religion’s belief.”
In his original lawsuit, filed last August, Snelson did not indicate a specific system of religious beliefs that guided his dietary needs, merely that “I use my diet to purify and cleanse my internal organs” based on “religious dietary restrictions that have been imposed on me by my church and by my religion and by my faith.”
He argued that after he informed prison officials that he could only eat “whole foods,” they punished him by denying him ice cream, which they claimed contained additives and preservatives.
Snelson claimed to be a member of the Church of Light in Chino Hills, California, but no record of such a church could be located. He is seeking what he calls “hedonic” and “vindictive” damages, along with monetary and punitive.
["Picture of an Ice Cream" via Ian Britton on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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