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Rowe v. Indiana Department of Correction

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 3, 2014

REV. JEFFREY ALLEN ROWE, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION,

ENTRY DISCUSSING CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Allen Rowe, currently an inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (Wabash Valley) and self-described associate pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (CJCC) (a religion associated with white-supremacist ideology), filed this civil action while he was incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (PCF). In this action Rowe sues prison officials under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc to 2000cc-5, and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First Amendment rights. Specifically, Rowe alleges that the defendants interfered with his ability to practice his religion as an adherent and pastor of the CJCC. Rowe labels his religion and himself as white supremacist.

All parties seek resolution of this action through the filing of cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [dkt. 128] is denied and the defendants' motion for summary judgment [dkt. 89] is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Standard of Review

"Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Westra v. Credit Control of Pinellas, 409 F.3d 825, 827 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ). A "material fact" is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party.'" Springer v. Durflinger, 518 F.3d 479, 483 (7th Cir. 2008)(quoting Sides v. City of Champaign, 496 F.3d 820, 826 (7th Cir. 2007).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, '" which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Rule 56(c)). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court construes facts and draws inferences "in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made." Keck Garrett & Associates, Inc. v. Nextel Communications, Inc., 517 F.3d 476, 483 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting In re United Air Lines, Inc., 453 F.3d 463, 468 (7th Cir. 2006)).

II. The First Amendment and RLUIPA

Rowe raises both First Amendment and RLUIPA claims in this action.

The First Amendment provides, in pertinent part: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." U.S. Const. Amend. I. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from imposing a "substantial burden" on a "central religious belief or practice." Kaufman v. Pugh, 733 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013). But, "the religious freedom guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment does not require religious exemptions from facially neutral laws of general applicability." Korte v. Sebelius, 735 F.3d 654, 671 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 883-90 (1990)). Thus, neutral laws of general applicability need only satisfy the basic test for rationality that applies to all laws; if a law incidentally burdens the exercise of religion, the Constitution does not require an exemption. Id. (citing Smith, 494 U.S. at 878-79, 888-90).[2]

RLUIPA provides greater protections to a prisoner than the First Amendment. RLUIPA prohibits prisons that receive federal funding from substantially burdening an inmate's religious exercise unless the step in question is the least restrictive way to advance a compelling state interest. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a); see also Borzych v. Frank, 439 F.3d 388, 390 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709 (2005); Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107 (7th Cir. 2003)). The First Amendment, by contrast, does not require the accommodation of religious practice: states may enforce neutral rules. See Borzych, 439 F.3d at 390 (citing Employment Division of Oregon, 494 U.S. 872.

Claims under both the First Amendment and RLUIPA are evaluated under the substantial burden test, which requires the plaintiff to show that the defendants substantially burdened his free exercise rights. See Patel v. Bureau of Prisons, 515 F.3d 807, 814 (8th Cir. 2008) ("[T]he same definition of substantial burden' applies under the Free Exercise Clause, RFRA, and RLUIPA."). At a minimum, a substantial burden exists when the government compels a religious person to "perform acts undeniably at odds with fundamental tenets of [his] religious beliefs." Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 218 (1972). Towards the other end of the spectrum, "a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion... is one that forces adherents of a religion to refrain from religiously motivated conduct, inhibits or constrains conduct or expression that manifests a central tenet of a person's religious beliefs, or compels conduct or expression that is contrary to those beliefs." Koger v. Bryan, 523 F.3d 789, 798-99 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted); see also Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Employment Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 718 (1981); Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 878 (7th Cir. 2009). In discussing RLUIPA, the Seventh Circuit has held that a law, regulation, or other governmental command substantially burdens religious exercise if it "bears direct, primary, and fundamental responsibility for rendering [a] religious exercise... effectively impracticable." Korte, 735 F.3d at 683 (citing Civil Liberties for Urban Believers v. City of Chicago, 342 F.3d 752, 761 (7th Cir. 2003)).

III. Scope of Rowe's Claims

The claims set forth below are understood to be the only remaining claims pursued by Rowe. A host of other claims have been voluntarily dismissed. See dkts. 36; 128 at p. 29; and 90 at fn. 1. Any claim not specifically mentioned in this Entry is understood to be voluntarily dismissed by Rowe. Dkt. 128 at p. 82 ("Any other claims Rowe has, that he has not already voluntarily dismissed, or argued herein for summary judgment in his favor, Rowe hereby voluntarily dismisses."). In addition, the scope of Rowe's claims is necessarily limited by the relief sought.

First, Rowe seeks money damages. As explained in the Entry of August 29, 2012, claims for money damages under RLUIPA are dismissed. See Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S.Ct. 1651 (2011) (money damages are not available in suits against states under the RLUIPA). The only relief available to Rowe if he prevails on his RLUIPA claims is for injunctive relief. Thus the claims for money damages are necessarily against the individual defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly violating Rowe's First Amendment rights.

Second, Rowe seeks injunctive relief. For the reasons explained above, RLUIPA provides greater protection to Rowe as a prisoner than does the First Amendment. Thus for practical reasons, Rowe's claims for injunctive relief are evaluated under RLUIPA and the First Amendment claims for injunctive relief are disregarded. In addition, the defendants note that many of Rowe's claims are based on circumstances which occurred at PCF and are specific to that facility. For example, the way in which defendant Walter Peterson reviewed Rowe's mail is specific to PCF. As a result of Rowe's transfer such claims for injunctive relief are now moot. As Rowe correctly notes, however, claims for injunctive relief against a system-wide policy or practice are not moot when a prisoner is transferred to another prison. See dkt. 129 at p. 13. Such claims for injunctive relief are necessarily against the IDOC.[3]

Rowe seeks an order prohibiting the application of six IDOC policies. See dkt. 128 at p. 32. All other RLUIPA claims are understood to have been voluntarily dismissed. See specifically dkt. 128 at pp. 33 and 36 (voluntarily dismissing claim that omission of a time limit for review of correspondence violates RLUIPA). Rowe claims the following policies violate RLUIPA:

1. The Zero Tolerance Policy on Security Threat Groups. Identified by Rowe as IDOC Policy No. 02-03-105. See dkt. 127-1 at p. 25, ¶¶ 48-50. (Attached to Entry as Exhibit A).

2. The visitation policy prohibiting current prisoners from receiving visits from ex-prisoners who are not immediate family of the current prisoner. Identified by Rowe as IDOC Policy No. 02-01-102. (Attached to Entry as Exhibit B).

3. The property policy limiting prisoners to only possessing one authoritative religious text book and twenty additional books (unless in an approved religious study course). Identified by Rowe as Policy No. 02-01-101. See dkt. 127-1 at 31 ¶ 118. (The Court was unable to locate a copy of this policy in the record or online).

4. The correspondence policy prohibiting offender-to-offender mail when one of the prisoners is on any type of segregation unit. Identified by Rowe as Policy No. 02-01-103. See dkt. 127-1 at 33 ¶¶ 130-131. (The relevant portion of this policy is attached to this Entry as Exhibit C).

5. The correspondence policy which Rowe describes as prohibiting "item censorship" of religious publications/correspondences. Identified by Rowe as Policy No. 02-01-103. See dkt. 127-1 at p. 38, ¶ 184. (The relevant ...


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