Joshua Cookson, convicted of murdering an acquaintance at his mobile home in 1999 wants a federal court judge to require Maine prison officials to allow him to practice Satanism as a religion.
Cookson was sentenced in 2000 to 30 years in prison for murdering Portsmouth, N.H., resident Robin Rainville, following an evening of drinking and taking drugs.
Cookson said in his complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, that he has been practicing Satanism on a daily basis at the Maine State Prison since 2007.
In 2009, he began his quest to get prison officials to allow him to practice in the prison’s activities building, where group practices of other religions take place. According to Assistant Attorney General James Fortin, these include not only so-called mainstream religions, but also paganism and American Indian spirituality.
Cookson doesn’t deny that he is allowed to practice Satanism in his own cell, but he wants permission to practice with others. In his brief, he said Satanism “answers fundamental questions about life, death, purpose and overall conception of the universe.” He also believes “in using only nonviolent practices and rituals … and that no aspect of his religious practice requires him to jeopardize the safety and security” of staff or inmates.
He said performing a ceremony with others “is one of the fundamental parts of his religious beliefs.” […]
Earlier this month, federal Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk wrote in a 23-page recommendation that she concurred with corrections officials. She said the risks to the safety of inmates was too great to allow a group practice.
Cookson last week filed an objection to her recommendation, which will be part of the record when U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock makes a final decision. If Woodcock decides against him, Cookson can appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. […more…]