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Respect Heather Doyle's rights of conscience

An open letter to the Board of County Commissioners
the Sheriff's Office
and Detention Center Administrator
(Fax: 410-535-4537)
of Calvert County, Maryland

Dear Sirs,

It has been brought to my attention that Heather Doyle, currently incarcerated in the Calvert County Detention Center for a non-violent protest, is being threatened with being placed in a "restraint box" because she is following her conscience and requesting a cruelty-free and non-violent, i.e. vegan, diet.

I do not know Ms. Doyle, but I do know that following a vegan diet is for many people a basic matter of conscience and morality, based on a belief in the value of all sentient beings which is a "sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God" of adherents of traditional mainstream religions. [Welsh v. United States, 398 US 333 - Supreme Court 1970]

And as Ms. Doyle faces severe punishment for her attempt to follow her conscience, we see that this is indeed "a conscience which categorically requires the believer to disregard elementary self-interest and to accept martyrdom in preference to transgressing its tenets." [United States v. Kauten, 133 F. 2d 703 -Circuit Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1943]

The county is obligated under First Amendment principles to accommodate her practice.

But more than that, as veganism is a means of rejecting violence, it is exactly the sort of behavior that ought to be not only tolerated but encouraged in any prison system, as an example to other inmates.

Doyle's account of her arrest [], of how negligent procedures and excessive force were used, has already brought shame to the Sheriff’s Office and the County. I urge you to not compound the error by punishing her for doing her best to adhere to her spiritual beliefs and the dictates of her conscience.

Thank you.

Tom Swiss

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