Five inmates have sued the state Department of Correction for the right to use peace pipes, herbs and beads for religious ceremonies.
"Just as Catholics use rosaries, Protestants use crosses and Jews use the Torah, the (plaintiffs) use ceremonial pipes, tobacco and natural smudge, etc., to express our religion," according to the suit.A similar suit by another group at the prison is pending.
The inmates, all members of the Native American Spiritual Awareness Council, said they meet daily for prayer and discussion. They used the religious items until the department's treatment director took them away in April.
According to their claim, herbs are cleansing, and smoke from the ceremonial pipe carries "the prayers to the Great Spirit, God."
Tony Carnevale, spokesman for the corrections department, said the department wants a compromise.
"They certainly have a number of rights when it comes to practicing their faith," he said. "The issue is what materials can they be allowed to access that will not compromise the safety and security of a prison facility and the people in it."