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Originally published Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 9:17 AM

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2 Muslim inmates suing Pierce County Jail

Two Muslim inmates from the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma are suing, claiming they are banned from practicing their religion.

The Associated Press

TACOMA, Wash. —

Two Muslim inmates from the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma are suing, claiming they are banned from practicing their religion.

The lawsuit was filed this week in federal court in Tacoma with the help of the ACLU and Public Interest Law Group, The News Tribune reported Thursday. The lawsuit also names the sheriff's department, which runs the jail, and eight jail officials.

Raymond Wesley Garland and Larry Edward Tarrer say the jail prohibits Muslims from group prayer, bans certain religious clothing and refuses to accommodate their diet.

A deputy prosecutor who represents the jail, Craig Adams, disputes the claims. He says the jail offers Muslims meals without pork and allows them to pray together and perform ritual cleansing.

The inmates also complain that incarcerated Christians receive preferential treatment, including a separate living unit known informally as the "God pod."

"Throughout their incarcerations at the jail, plaintiffs have experienced various forms of religious discrimination, harassment and interference with their ability to practice Islam," the lawsuit states.

The men seek unspecified damages and an injunction to halt the alleged discriminatory practices. They also seek to have the lawsuit declared a class action to protect all Muslim men at the Pierce County Jail.

"I was surprised by this lawsuit," said Adams, the deputy prosecutor. "Their complaints do not seem very well researched."

County officials consult with clerics and other religious experts to determine the tenets of faiths, he said.

The jail was required to address the religious needs of inmates as part of an agreement settling a 1996 lawsuit.

Jail officials serve Muslim inmates their meals between dusk and dawn during the holy month of Ramadan so they can fast during daylight as their religion requires, he said.

Jail commanders also allowed Tarrer, 37, and Garland, 26, to live in the same unit so they could pray together, Adams said.

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Garland recently was sent to state prison to begin serving a 28-year, 10-month sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder, second-degree assault and unlawfully possessing a firearm in a 2004 shooting that left a man dead.

He is expected to return to the jail early next year while he stands trial in an unrelated assault case.

Tarrer was booked into the jail in June 2008 after his 1991 conviction for second-degree murder was overturned on appeal.

He's currently being retried on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors allege he shot two women, one of them pregnant. One of the victims died and the surviving woman's baby died after being delivered by Cesarean section.

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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