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Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber

Native American inmates challenged a South Dakota state prison policy banning the use of tobacco in Native American religious activities. The court found that the tobacco ban illegally burdened the prisoners’ exercise of their religious beliefs in violation of federal law. The court said that the ban was not the least restrictive way of achieving the prison’s interest in preventing tobacco abuse. In particular, the prison failed to show why a policy decreasing the proportion of tobacco in the mixture distributed to inmates for religious purposes to one percent would not be an effective way of curbing tobacco abuse and achieving the prison’s interest in order and security. The court affirmed an order issued by the lower court with specific instructions about the percentage and use of tobacco in Native American religious ceremonies in the prison.