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Crowder v. Lariva

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

September 12, 2016

RICKY CROWDER, Plaintiff,
v.
LARIVA, et al., Defendants.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge United States District Court

         Ricky Crowder, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana (“FCC Terre Haute”), brings this action pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) and the theory recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Crowder alleges that his rights were violated when the defendants denied his request for a kosher diet. Crowder seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages. The defendants move for summary judgment and Crowder has responded. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment [dkt 51] is granted in part and denied in part. In addition, and as discussed more fully below, because the facts are undisputed, defendant Jones is directed, pursuant to Rule 56(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to show why summary judgment should not be entered in favor of Crowder on his First Amendment and RFRA claims.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment asks that the Court find that a trial based on the uncontroverted and admissible evidence is unnecessary because, as a matter of law, it would conclude in the moving party's favor. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56. To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, ” Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 898 (7th Cir. 2003).

         The defendants object to Crowder's response to the motion for summary judgment arguing that the response fails to comply with Rule 56 and Local Rule 56-1. The Court has considered Crowder's response and agrees that Crowder's response contains some conclusory allegations and irrelevant argument, but the Court will consider verified factual statements that are based on Crowder's personal knowledge and argument that is related to the arguments put forth by the defendants.

         II. Undisputed Material Facts

         The following statement of undisputed material facts was evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above. That is, this statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Crowder as the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         A. Policy Regarding Special Diet Requests

         The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) maintains a national policy statement to guide staff as they attempt to accommodate requested religious practices of the inmates incarcerated within its prisons. Consistent with that effort, the BOP has established a religious dietary program in an effort to meet the religious dietary requirements of the greatest number of religious dietary requirements possible. The BOP's religious diet program, called the Alternative Diet Program (“ADP”), consists of two distinct components: One component provides for religious dietary needs through self-selection from the main line, which includes a no-flesh option and access to the salad/hot bar if one is available. In institutions where meals are served in prepared trays, local procedures will be established for providing the no-flesh component. The other component accommodates dietary needs through nationally recognized, religiously certified processed foods.

         BOP policy requires that inmates wishing to participate in the ADP submit in writing an Inmate Request to Staff Member, which is commonly referred to as a “cop out, ” asking to be enrolled in the program. After receiving this request, the Chaplain will ordinarily conduct an oral interview, referred to as the Religious Diet Interview, and complete the interview form within two working days of the request. The oral interview consists of standardized questions. The Religious Diet Interview is intended to protect the integrity and orderly administration of the ADP and support an efficient food services program. The policy supports the secure and orderly operation of BOP facilities because the interview questions ask the inmate to provide information regarding the underlying religious belief(s) that prompt(s) his/her request for a religious diet while showing that this need is religiously faith-based. The interview questions are thus designed to protect the integrity of the religious diet program by surveying the inmate's belief system and ensuring the request is faith-based and not just a personal preference or lifestyle choice.

         The decision to accommodate an inmate's stated religious dietary need is made by a Chaplaincy Team, consisting of two or more chaplains. These chaplains review the interview responses for accurate references to sacred scriptures, passages, or stories; religious traditions that are part of, or related to, the faith the inmate adheres to; given examples of the dietary practices source and a basic understanding of the reasons for the dietary practice; and references to specific religious dietary laws across faith traditions.

         The decision as to which component of the religious diet program best accommodates the inmate's religious dietary needs is determined by the inmate's interview responses. Pursuant to the BOP policy, the use of one word describing a religious diet, such as Kosher or Halal, in itself is not enough to warrant placement in the certified component of the ADP. The use of one of these terms must be accompanied with some understanding, albeit basic, of the religious dietary tradition and the reason for needing such accommodation. Inmates are notified of the religious diet component for which they are approved on the Notification of Religious Diet Accommodation (BP-S700), based on their religious dietary needs. If they are unsatisfied with the diet they receive, they may request another accommodation in six months.

         The safe, secure, and orderly operation of the FCC Terre Haute includes its food service operations. Management of the certified food menus requires Food Services to plan the purchase of food items and allocate the necessary storage space and staff resources sufficient to effectively meet the demand for the food items and administer the program in a secure and orderly fashion. Food Services staff must order the certified food items in advance so as to have them available when needed. The six-month waiting period required between religious diet interviews supports food services ability to meet the demand for certified food supplies.

         B. Crowder's Religious Diet Requests

         Based upon the BOP's official records, from July 29, 1993, to April 18, 2002, Crowder had expressed no religious preference. From June 22, 2003 to May 2, 2012, Crowder professed to be Protestant. Since May 2, 2012, Crowder has professed adherence to the Messianic-Sabbatarian faith. On April 27, 2012, Chaplain Jones received a cop-out from Crowder, citing the Bible, and requesting a change of religious preference from Protestant to Hebrew Israelite, and to be provided a diet free from pork. Chaplain Jones changed Crowder's religious preference to Messianic, the designation that the BOP uses to denote the Hebrew-Israelite inmates, as soon as he received the request. On May 4, 2012, Crowder presented to the Chapel, and Chaplain Jones conducted the first Religious Diet Interview. The Religious Diet Interview consists of six-standard questions asked of every inmate who seeks to participate in the ADP. Chaplain Jones and Chaplain Wood were the Chaplaincy Team responsible for reviewing Crowder's interview responses, which were as follows:

1. What are your religious dietary needs? Response: I am trying to stay away from pork.
2. What are the religious reasons for your dietary needs? Response: In the Old Testament, God commands us to stay away from pork.
3. What does the term “certified processed foods” mean to you? Response: Processed by the government.
4. If you believe you need to be on the certified processed food line, how do you understand “kosher” or “halal”? Response: Kosher is in the way it is being treated. [There are] no pork byproducts.
5. Why can't your religious dietary needs be met by self-selecting from the mainline and the salad/hot bar (where the salad/hot bar is part of the Food Service Program)? Response: The way they prepare the food in the kitchen; they are using the same pots and pans as the pork.
6. Do you understand that you may only purchase and/or consume foods in compliance with your religious dietary laws from the commissary, if you are approved for the certified religious line? Response: yes.

         Based on Crowder's responses to the Religious Diet Interview questions, he was provided the option to self-select foods from the mainline, but not provided the certified processed component. The defendants maintain that the decision to place Crowder on the no flesh option was not motivated by any desire to discriminate against him, but was based solely upon his interview responses and discretionary judgments made following BOP policy. On May 5, 2012, Chaplain Jones provided Crowder with Notification of Religious Diet Accommodation informing him that he had been approved to participate in the mainline component of the Religious Diet Program.

         On October 26, 2012, Crowder submitted a second cop-out to Chaplain Jones seeking to re-apply to participate in the certified processed food component of the ADP. On October 27, 2012, Chaplain Jones instructed Crowder to see him for an interview with a copy of the cop-out.

         On November 2, 2012, Chaplain Jones conducted a second Religious Diet Interview. Crowder provided the following responses to the second interview:

1. What are your religious dietary needs? Response: Pork free. Kosher food.
2. What are the religious reasons for your dietary needs? Response: some foods are unclean. Pork is unclean.
3. What does the term “certified processed foods” mean to you? Response: Mechanically separated.
4. If you believe you need to be on the certified processed food line, how do you understand “kosher” or “halal”? Response: Kosher is properly prepared foods.
5. Why can't your religious dietary needs be met by self-selecting from the mainline and the salad/hot bar (where the salad/hot bar is part of the Food Service Program)? Response: They use the same utensils and pots and pans when they prepare pork meals.
6. Do you understand that you may only purchase and/or consume foods in compliance with your religious dietary laws from the commissary, if you are approved for the certified religious line? Response: yes.

         Chaplains Jones and Woods reviewed the interview responses, and determined that the self-select component of the ADP was most appropriate to accommodate Crowder's religious dietary needs. The defendants maintain that the decision to place Crowder on the no flesh option was not motivated by any desire to discriminate against the Crowder, but was based solely upon Crowder's interview responses. On November 3, 2012, Chaplain Jones provided Crowder with the Notification advising him of the decision as required by policy.

         On May 19, 2013, Crowder submitted a third cop-out to Chaplain Jones requesting to participate in the certified processed food component of the religious diet program. Crowder was ...


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