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FAHEEM-EL v. LANE

May 30, 1986

KAREEM FAHEEM-EL, ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MICHAEL P. LANE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baker, Chief Judge.

  FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
                           FINAL ORDER

This civil rights litigation poses the question whether persons incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections who are members of the El Rukn Suni Mosque, 3947 South Drexel Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois (formerly Moorish Science Temple of America, El Rukn Tribe) are entitled to hold separate religious services and wear and possess emblems showing membership in their organization.

The individual plaintiffs, Kareem Faheem-El, El Barr-El, Hasib-El, Mohammad C. Ali-El, Mosham Bay-El, Roland Lewis-El, Otis Dorsey-El, Michael Williams-El, and Harvey Costick-El, are convicted felons who are inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections. They are representative of a class of plaintiffs defined as:

    All members of the Moorish Science Temple of
  America, El Rukn Tribe, who

  are currently incarcerated in an Illinois state
  penitentiary.*fn1

The plaintiffs claim that they are members of a bona fide religious organization. They complain that the defendant forbids the plaintiffs to congregate in religious worship services, wear identifying emblems, or possess certain printed materials, and thus the defendant interferes with the plaintiffs' rights to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The plaintiffs seek only declaratory and injunctive relief. Originally, the plaintiffs also sought money damages, but the parties subsequently limited the relief sought to equitable remedies and consented to trial of the case before the court.*fn2

The defendant denies that the plaintiffs are a bona fide religious organization. The defendant asserts that the El Rukns are a street gang organized for the pursuit of criminal activities. The defendant admits that he restricts the activities of the El Rukns within the penitentiaries operated by the State of Illinois, but he asserts that the state does so for the legitimate purposes of institutional security and discipline. The plaintiffs' claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985, and 1986. Jurisdiction is granted by 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

The case has had a history of delay from its inception. The parties have conducted extensive discovery and amended the pleadings several times. Between November 18, 1985, and April 15, 1986, the court heard four days of testimony from twenty-six witnesses. The parties presented oral argument and written briefs. Having considered the evidence and the arguments, the court now makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Factual Findings

Chicago Police Detectives Daniel Brannigan and Richard Peck testified for the defendants. The court credits the testimony of these detective witnesses about the origins and operations of the El Rukns. Detectives Peck and Brannigan are police officers with first hand experience on the street. They have been assigned to gang crime squads on Chicago's South Side for many years and have been involved directly with investigation of the El Rukns and in dealing with its members. They have arrested El Rukns, been shot at by them, and chronicled the organization's activities. Their testimony is persuasive.

The El Rukns' origins go back to the formation of the Black Stone Rangers in the late 1960's on the South Side of Chicago. The leaders of the Rangers were Jeff Fort and Eugene Hairston.*fn3 Fort was the chief of the Black Stone Rangers and he governed the organization through a group called the Main 21. Although the Rangers were a street gang, in their early days they were allowed to meet once a week in the First Presbyterian Church in Woodlawn after church services. They even obtained a federal grant for educational purposes. The Rangers evolved into the Black Peace Stone Nation under the same leadership. As Detective Peck put it, "[t]here was nothing religious about the Black Peace Stone Nation." It was a street gang organized to engage in extortion, robbery, burglary, and prostitution all over the City of Chicago and in the suburbs. The gang had up to 15,000 members, Detective Peck testified, ranging from 6 to 60 years in age.

Following a Senate investigation into some of this criminal activity, Jeff Fort and five of the Main 21 were indicted. Fort was convicted and he received a prison sentence. At that point, according to Detective Peck, the Black Peace Stone Nation died out and the leaders kept the money they had received from the gang activities.

In 1976, Detective Peck says, Jeff Fort was released from prison. When Fort returned to Chicago, the El Rukns were formed. Detective Peck says the people who are members of the El Rukn organization are in large part the same people who were members of the Black Peace Stone Nation. Peck says the El Rukns are carrying out the same activities as the Peace Stones but the El Rukns are now more sophisticated and do not engage in violence except for furtherance of the gang's activities and for economic advantage.

Detective Brannigan agrees with Detective Peck. Brannigan describes the El Rukns as a sophisticated street gang with a leader and hierarchy of members organized to engage in criminal activity. The leader of the El Rukns is Jeff Fort who is also referred to as "Chief Malik" or "The King Angel."

In his youth, Brannigan says, the membership would engage in violence for its own sake. Now that the members are thirty, forty, and fifty years of age, however, their violence is directed toward financial gain. The hierarchy of the El Rukn organization, Brannigan testified, is similar to the hierarchy of the Black Peace Stone Nation. Jeff Fort and the Main 21 of the Rangers and Jeff Fort and the "Generals" of the Peace Stone Nation have been succeeded by Jeff Fort (Chief Malik) and the Emirs of the El Rukns. ...


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