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Transgender inmate sues to practice witchcraft

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One of North Carolina's most notorious all-male prisons is the focus of a court fight over religious liberty led by a transgender witch.

Jennifer Ann Jasmaine says in her handwritten, federal lawsuit that Lanesboro Correctional Institution is blocking the practice of her spiritual beliefs, which happen to be rooted in witchcraft.

Jasmaine, a former Mecklenburg County Jail inmate, filed her complaint this month. In 2015, as inmate Duane Fox, she sued Maury Correctional Institute in Hookerton on the same grounds.

A spokesman for the state prison system contacted by the Observer declined to comment on the case.

Jasmaine, 40, says the chaplains in charge of religious services at Lanesboro have violated her constitutional rights by restricting when, where and how she can practice Wicca, the modern-day religion based on ancient pagan beliefs. The prison also has refused to provide the foods Wiccans are supposed to eat, her lawsuit says.

Under state policy, individual prisons are required to provide "reasonable religious menu accommodations" to inmates practicing religious dietary laws.

Not happening, says Jasmaine. According to her complaint, she has requested and been denied the strict vegan diet that adheres to her spiritual practice. She says prison officials told her if she wanted vegan meals, she needed to become a Rastafarian or a Buddhist.

"The plaintiff, Ms. Jasmaine, shouldn't have to change her religion to get on the proper diet," she writes in her suit.

Jasmaine says she is entitled to court protection to practice witchcraft, which she says has been "discriminated against and persecuted for hundreds of years without just cause."

She says the prison has further limited her practice by restricting her services to the eight Wicca holy festivals, or "sabbats," held each calendar year.