Bernard Pritchard Satanism
Inmate Bernard Pritchard claims that officials of Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces do not allow him worship SatanSouthern New Mexico Correctional Facility

A state prison inmate in New Mexico has accused prison officials of forbidding him to worship Satan.

Bernard Pritchard filed a pro se lawsuit, meaning the inmate is defending himself, in which he claimed that the chaplain and the deputy warden of Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces treated his faith differently than others.

"Defendants denied plaintiff a reasonable opportunity of pursuing his faith comparable to the opportunity afforded to fellow prisoners who adhere to conventional religious precepts," the lawsuit said.

The document also cited "infliction of emotional distress of plaintiff's feelings, acts, experiences of his faith and solitude to what his beliefs are considered to be divine and issues of ultimate concern and occupy a place parallel to that filled by God."

Pritchard, serving time after he was charged with aggressive stalking in 2013, asked the correctional facility to let him worship Satan more freely and also asked for $140,000 (£85,764) in damages.

Officials declined to comment on the lawsuit; however, a top official told News 13 that the department does its best to safely accommodate every inmate's religious beliefs.

"[They have been] given a right to practice those faiths and we want to make sure that we're respectful of their rights," said Anthony Romero, deputy director of adult prisons with the New Mexico Corrections Department.

"There are from time to time issues that might come up with security concerns," he continued.

Micah McCoy of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico said there are constitutional protections for religious practice, but "in certain contexts such as a correctional facility, there has to be some restrictions on inmate behaviour".

Local Satanists have expressed concern over Pitchard's request.

Head of the Church of Satan, Magus Peter Gilmore, explained that Satanists do not worship Satan, but they follow atheism and treat Satan as "a symbol of Man living as his prideful, carnal nature dictates."