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AZEEZ v. FAIRMAN
January 22, 1985
QAID RAFEEQ AZEEZ, ABDULLAH MUHAMMAD, PLAINTIFFS,
JAMES W. FAIRMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baker, Chief Judge.
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND FINAL ORDER
The plaintiffs, Qaid Rafeeq Azeez and Abdullah Muhammad, who
are inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections, complain
that the defendants' policy of using the plaintiffs' "committed
names", Stanley Russell and Jessie Fields, respectively, and
punishing the plaintiffs for their refusal to use or respond to
their committed names, unconstitutionally restricts their
expression and exercise of their religious beliefs. The
defendants, J.W. Fairman, J.E. Wright, and A. Dodge are
administrators and correctional officers of the Illinois
Department of Corrections. At the times of the occurrences
complained of, the plaintiffs were residents of the Pontiac
Correctional Center. The plaintiffs testified to disciplinary
proceedings and denial of privileges associated with their use of
their Muslim names. The plaintiffs argue that the Department of
Corrections has shown no compelling state interest in refusing to
acknowledge the plaintiffs' religiously based name changes. Thus,
the plaintiffs claim that the defendants unreasonably restricted
their religious freedom.
The plaintiffs testified, and the court finds, that members of
the Muslim community, upon embracing Al Islam, commonly adopt new
names which reflect an "attribute of God" and which signify their
new commitment. This practice has a basis in the Quran, and
Wallace D. Muhammad, the chief minister of the nation of Islam,
has urged the Muslim faithful to follow it. See Attachments to
Plaintiffs' Memo of Law.
Both plaintiffs have adopted Muslim surnames since their
incarceration. The plaintiff Muhammad testified that he has been
an adherent of Islam since the 1960's, but did not change his
name until his commitment to the Department of Corrections. The
plaintiff Azeez has been through an Illinois judicial proceeding
based on statute which resulted in a court order formally
changing his name. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 2. These name changes are
a result of the plaintiffs' sincere adherence to Al-Islam, and
these name changes have religious significance to them.
Richard Ores, the identification supervisor at Pontiac, issued
an identification card to Azeez, following his change of name,
bearing only his Muslim name. The prison administrators then
decided that an a/k/a designation should be used on the
plaintiffs' identification cards. The policy of the Department of
Corrections was to recognize only "committed names". Defendants'
Exhibits A-13, A-14, and M-3. The plaintiffs insisted that they
wanted identification cards bearing only their Muslim names. The
defendants, however, offered evidence, and the court finds, that
the plaintiffs each accepted identification cards bearing both
their Muslim and committed names during June of 1981. Plaintiffs'
Exhibits 8-9. The plaintiffs also insist that their institutional
records should bear their Muslim names. Plaintiffs' Exhibits
However, the writ of mandamus issued by the state court
commanding prison officials to recognize and honor plaintiff
Azeez's new name, further orders that no changing of
institutional records is required. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 2. The
defendant, J.W. Fairman, who was Warden at Pontiac at the time,
ordered that the plaintiffs were to use "committed names" on all
institutional documents but could use their new religious names
in addition to their committed names. Plaintiffs' Exhibits 18-19.
The defendants justify the disciplinary action against the
plaintiffs on the ground that the plaintiffs refused to obey
valid orders. In addition, the defendants point out that the
plaintiff Muhammad disfigured his identification card and
threatened the institutional staff. Plaintiffs' Exhibit 33.
The plaintiffs testified that they were denied access to the
law library, Plaintiffs' Exhibits 10, 11, and 23, the commissary,
Plaintiffs' Exhibits 4-7, 19 and 28, "sick call," the clothing
room, religious activities, Plaintiffs' Exhibits 15 and 21, and
notary services, Plaintiffs' Exhibit 27, and that their
identification cards were confiscated, Plaintiff's Exhibit 20,
because of the defendants' refusal to recognize the plaintiffs'
name changes. The defendants offered evidence that privileges
were refused only when the plaintiffs refused to sign their
"committed names" along with their Muslim names.
The defendants seemed to claim at trial that the plaintiffs
occupied different positions in this case because the plaintiff
Muhammad had not obtained a court order changing his name. That
without substance. The Illinois statutory provisions regarding
name changes, Ill. Rev.Stat. ch. 96, are only permissive and do
not abrogate the common law right to change a name without a
formal application. Reinken v. Reinken, 351 Ill. 409,
184 N.E. 639 (1933); see also Thomas v. Thomas, 100 Ill. App.3d 1080, 1081,
56 Ill.Dec. 604, 427 N.E.2d 1009 (1981). The common law name
change is valid, however, only if the change does not interfere
with the rights of others by serving a fraudulent purpose. Chaney
v. Civil Service Commission, 82 Ill.2d 289, 294, 45 Ill.Dec. 146,
412 N.E.2d 497 (1980). The defendants made no showing of any
fraudulent purpose behind the plaintiff Muhammad's name change,
although they alleged generally that name changes could be
confusing. That argument goes more toward the defendants'
institutional security and efficiency arguments justifying a
"committed name" policy rather than to show a requirement for
Muhammad to change his name in a court proceeding. The plaintiffs
stand on the same footing as each other in this case.
The defendants also dispute, to a certain extent, the reasons
underlying the plaintiffs' name changes. In particular, plaintiff
Muhammad, a long-time adherent of Islam, was questioned as to why
it took him so long to change his name. Muhammad testified as to
the use of "X" by followers of Malcolm "X" to signify
cancellation of the names used prior to accepting Islam. Muhammad
said that current religious practice requires the use of an
Islamic name. The defendants argue that Muslim name changes are
"purely a matter of personal opinion and not a matter of
religious necessity". The defendants state many Muslims have
never changed their names. Defendants' Brief, Page 4.
In Masjid Muhammad-D.C.C. v. Keve, 479 F. Supp. 1311 (D.Del.
1979), the leading reported case regarding Muslim name changes
among prisoners, the district court discussed change of name and
its role within Islam. The court stated that "protected religious
expression encompasses more than orthodox or institutionalized
practices." Id. at 1323. "To be protected, a particular form of
religious expression need not be mandated by one's religion or
even endorsed by a majority of its adherents, so long as it is an
expression of a sincere, religiously based conviction." Id. See
also Stevens v. Berger, 428 F. Supp. 896, 899 (S.D.N.Y. 1977);
Theriault v. Silber, 391 F. Supp. 578, 580 (W.D.Tex. 1975).
Neither federal courts nor prison administrators are authorized
to determine the orthodoxy of religious ...