RENO — 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 county 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.