Nevada inmate accuses county jailers of violating his rights by denying him ice cream

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Updated: 5/09/2014 5:10 pm
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada inmate who says he practices Satanism is accusing county jailers of violating his constitutional rights by denying him meals consistent with the strict diet of his pagan religion, including ice cream.

Alex C. Snelson, 33, is serving two to six years in state prison for possession of a stolen car after spending time in the Washoe County Jail in Reno for possession of methamphetamine and brass knuckles.
He argues in a federal lawsuit that he was denied the right to freely exercise his religion last year when he was forced to either starve or break from a strict dietary regime that allows only "whole foods" but no byproducts or processing additives.

Snelson claims deputies also retaliated against him by refusing him ice cream because they said it would violate his religion. He said in an amended, hand-written complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on Wednesday that the ice cream is a "whole food" and he is entitled to it as well as his fellow non-pagan inmates.

"Each 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 wrote.

Snelson, who was homeless and unemployed when he was arrested last year, said the violation of his First Amendment rights caused him to suffer at the county jail. He's seeking "hedonic" and "vindictive" damages as well as monetary and punitive damages.

County prosecutors said Friday they hadn't seen the new filing and had no comment.

County spokesman Bob Harmon said it is the policy of the jail operated by the sheriff's office to "accommodate the religious practices of all inmates."

"Mr. Snelson's allegations are just that — allegations, and we are confident that the facts will show that the Washoe County Sheriff's Office acted in accordance with constitutional requirements," Harmon said Friday.

Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Mary Kandaras said in court filings in March that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held previously that such claims must be "rooted in religious belief" not in "purely secular" philosophical concerns.

"Determining 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," she said in a motion requesting that Snelson be required to explain his beliefs.

Kandaras said Snelson's original lawsuit filed in August didn't identify any specific religion, the content of his diet, whether his diet was recognized by the tenets of his religion or if he simply made it up.

Snelson, who is acting as his own attorney, said in the amended suit he is a full, active and participating member of the pagan religion Satanism.

"I use my diet to purify and cleanse my internal organs," he said, adding that the "religious dietary restrictions that have been imposed on me by my church and by my religion and by my faith."

Snelson said he is a member of the Church of Light in Chino Hills, California. The Associated Press was not able to locate such a church.

A leader of an international Satanic organization questioned Snelson's claims.

The Church of Satan, founded in San Francisco in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey, allows its members "to choose whatever diet is pleasing to them," said Magus Peter H. Gilmore, a high priest at the church.
The church website says it is the "original Church of Satan" dedicated to the "acceptance of man's nature as an animal living in a cosmos that is indifferent to his existence." It adds that Satanism is "not Devil worship. There is no belief in God, Satan, the soul, the supernatural or in any form of afterlife."

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Speed - 5/13/2014 4:36 AM
1 Vote
Let's see-which Amendment was it that guarantees his right to eat ice cream in Prison? And I just have trouble believing ANY Religion,or "Religion" actually includes Ice Cream in its official religious "must-haves". This is pure BS,and the Attorney who represents this flake should be disbarred.

LASD1096 - 5/10/2014 8:51 AM
2 Votes
Send him they way of the peanut butter scumbag who tied up our legal system some years back. I could care less if they get anything more than stale bread and water, at least when that was the menu, the jails and prisons were a bit less populated.

WhoComplies - 5/10/2014 1:51 AM
6 Votes
This is far too stupid to even comment on... But, all I have to say is MRE's... MRE's stand for Meals Ready to Eat and our military live off them for weeks or months at a time while serving our country in forward deployed locations lacking dining facilitates. They are prepackaged, dehydrated food supplements that sustain life and provide high levels of energy. The federal government spent millions & millions ensuring they are religion neutral/friendly. I can tell you first hand they taste like crap even when you can spare the extra water to rehydrate them. Trust me, they are not our Grandfathers war rations. Also, they don't come with "Ice Cream" either. In-fact, when you get to a location with a dining facility (and maybe) some ice cream, it's that powdered crap mixed with water that only makes you happy because its cold.. I'll be damned if a prisoner gets treated better then our law abiding military service members willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Nuff said !!

Sandwulf - 5/9/2014 10:25 PM
0 Votes
Would someone get this baby an ice cream cone! Wow this is sure news worthy! :P

wildhorse03 - 5/9/2014 8:59 PM
1 Vote
I am confused, is he at Baskin and Robbins 31 flavors or did he commit a crime and is incarcerated, it is getting very tiring to hear what they don't get anymore when they are in fricken jail. DON'T BE STUPID AND GO TO JAIL AND YOU CAN HAVE SOME ICE CREAM.

kdavis52 - 5/9/2014 8:46 PM
1 Vote
Ice Cream? It's too cold for Satan. He prefers HOT SAUCE!!

SleepyPagan - 5/9/2014 8:31 PM
0 Votes
Most of the neo-satanism is a direct result to the "christian point of view" however, just because a person practices satanism, or any other religion, is not a valid reason to violate the constitutional rights of any United States Citizen. If it can be proven that what he claims is true, and with the lackluster belief of his chosen religion of others, then he should have his dietary guidelines adhered to. I am no fan of criminal activity, or a supporter of violation of our constitutional rights. @Nevadadad True Satanism is an ancient and long standing form of worship, unlike the neo-satanism that is in direct contradiction of the christian worship. Facts are facts, and if the dietary guidelines are to be followed, then the inmate should have no problem proving that his diet is a long standing practice, and since he's been homeless, I'm quiet sure that he's ate at shelters and soup kitchens, that while they do not serve "whole foods" as a standard form, they do serve nutritious foods to the masses, and if the inmate's dietary guides are that strict then I'm quite sure he's been a starving person for a long time.

BR549 - 5/9/2014 5:59 PM
1 Vote
Not to worry,he'll get his just deserts someday when he passes from this life to the next!

Nevadadad - 5/9/2014 5:33 PM
0 Votes
Guess he shouldn't have gotten caught doing crimes, huh? If Satanism is based on doing bad things (Hence their allegiance to Satan), doesn't that mean that he's not following his religion unless he's committing crimes? How fun is this argument?

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