Benning v. Georgia
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Ralph Benning is a Torah observant Jew who eats kosher food, wear a yarmulke, observes his faith’s specific holy days and performs religious rituals. He was an inmate in the Georgia prison system.
Benning asked a number of state and prison officials to provide him with a kosher diet and permit him to wear a yarmulke. When prison officials denied Benning’s requests, he had no choice but to file suit. Georgia moved to dismiss, arguing that the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was unconstitutional because (Georgia claimed) it exceeded the authority of Congress under the Spending and Commerce Clauses, and violated the Tenth Amendment and the Establishment Clause.
The district court dismissed some of Benning’s claims and concluded that RLUIPA was constitutional, but allowed that issue to be appealed. On appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Pryor, writing for a unanimous panel held that “RLUIPA was validly enacted under the Spending Clause and does not violate either the Tenth Amendment or the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
After the case went back to district court, Georgia settled the case by creating a kosher dietary program for all observant Jewish prisoners, including Ralph Benning.