Christian inmate challenges ruling depriving him of access to Bible in prison

An inmate is challenging a lower court ruling that favored the prison guards' decision to deprive him of access to his Bible while in solitary confinement. Conraad Hoever and his lawyers filed the appeal that cited his First Amendment rights were violated.

(REUTERS/Stephen Lam)Prison guards in Florida denied an inmate his daily Bible readings and he's appealing his case in court.

Hoever was sent to solitary confinement at the Franklin Correctional Institution in Florida for at least 20 days in 2013 because he disrespected one of the prison guards. He asked for one of his three Bibles so that he could do his daily, devotionals but authorities at the correctional facility refused.

Later, the prison provided Hoever with a Spanish Bible only, which he could not understand. The prisoner then sued for compensatory damages, but the lower courts favored the actions of the prison guards. Hoever then filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.

Three groups are helping Hoever on this appeal — The Rutherford Institute, Muslim Advocates and National Council of Jewish Women. These groups contend that the case isn't about Hoever's criminal conviction but about his religious freedom.

"During the 26 days that Hoever spent in solitary confinement, he was unable to exercise his right to practice his Christian faith by reading the Bible," the brief for the appeals court stated. "Even non-mandatory religious practices are protected from infringement by the First Amendment," the plaintiff's brief stated further. "Prisoners, particularly those who practice minority religions, are in danger of being cut off from engaging in many spiritual practices they need to sustain them through incarceration," it went on to say.

Hoever, a former teacher, is serving 15 years in prison following his conviction in March 2007. A 15-year-old student came forward and accused him of sexual assault. Two other students previously complained about Hoever for raising their shirts and touching them.

The family of the student also filed against the school board district because it failed to protect students from a predatory teacher, and they received a million dollars in settlement. Hoever, on the other hand, has also been registered as a sex offender.