D.C. Corrections officials said Chansley’s claims lacked “religious merit,” but U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that Chansley was entitled to the organic food on religious grounds. The judge, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, said the government was not entitled to question the legitimacy of a prisoner’s religious beliefs as long as they are sincerely held.
“Binding Supreme Court precedent forecloses governmental attempts to impeach religious claimants’ sincerity by introducing evidence that other followers of the same sect would perceive their religious obligations differently,” Lamberth wrote.
In a follow-up order on Thursday, the judge said the D.C. jail was “unable to comply” with his directive, so Chansley was moved to the Virginia jail. “The Sheriff there has advised that the Alexandria Detention Center is willing and able to accommodate defendant’s dietary requests,” Lamberth wrote.
A spokesperson for Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne confirmed that Chansley arrived there Thursday afternoon after the U.S. Marshals Service inquired about the food issue.
“The Marshals asked if our facility could comply with the court order regarding this inmate’s diet,” said Amy Bertsch, the spokesperson. “We consulted with Aramark, our food service contractor, and Aramark stated they could meet the court’s requirements.”
One puzzling aspect of the food dispute: Aramark is also the food contractor for the D.C. jail. A jail official reportedly told the court on Wednesday that the only religious meals permitted under the district’s contract were halal and kosher.
Chansley became an iconic figure during the storming of the Capitol by appearing shirtless and wearing face paint, horns on his head and an animal skin draped over his shoulders. He also sat in the presiding chair of the Senate for a time during the takeover — even as a U.S. Capitol Police officer begged him to leave.
The QAnon follower now faces felony charges of interfering with police during civil disorder and obstruction of Congress, as well as several misdemeanor counts. He was arrested in Arizona on Jan. 9 and has been in custody since.