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South Dakota Appealing Ceremonial Tobacco Policy Change

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SIOUX FALLS – South Dakota corrections officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision to reverse its policy banning the use of tobacco in Native American religious ceremonies.

Attorney James Moore filed the appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday.

Chief Judge Karen Schreier ruled in September that the prison system’s ban on tobacco in religious ceremonies substantially burdens Native American inmates’ religious rights. She ordered state officials and an organization of Native American inmates to submit suggested revisions.

Corrections officials agreed to allow tobacco at pipe ceremonies but wanted the right to prohibit its use in tobacco ties, in prayer flags and inside the prison’s sweat lodge.

Schreier ruled Jan. 28 that tobacco should be permitted in all those circumstances, but she capped the tobacco mix at 1 percent.

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