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VAN DYKE v. WASHINGTON

August 3, 1995

TERRY VAN DYKE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ODIE WASHINGTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kauffman, United States Magistrate Judge.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS PAGE CONTAINED  AND  ARE
NOT AN OFFICIAL PRODUCT OF THE COURT, THEREFORE THEY ARE NOT
DISPLAYED.]

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER FOR JUDGMENT

This is an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and equitable relief. The parties have consented to have this case heard to judgment by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and the District Judge has referred the case to me. Now before the court are the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (# 70-Pl.; # 74-Defs.) The motions are fully briefed and I have held a hearing. The plaintiff is represented by appointed counsel. After carefully considering all of the submissions of the parties, I conclude that the defendants' motion should be allowed.

Summary judgment is appropriate only if there is no genuine issue as to any material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, F.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court may not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact. Disputed facts must be left for resolution in a trial. At this stage, the court's function is to determine whether there are genuine issues for trial. There are no genuine issues unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

When faced with a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party must make a factual showing sufficient to establish the existence of a controverted material element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In addition, all reasonable inferences from the factual evidence must be drawn in favor of the non-movant. DeValk Lincoln Mercury, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 811 F.2d 326 (7th Cir. 1987).

FACTS

Many of the relevant facts in this case are undisputed. The plaintiff is an inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). In early 1992 he was housed at Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. When the plaintiff entered the Department, he indicated that his religious preference was "Christian", without further designation of a particular denomination.

Sometime in early 1992 the plaintiff received information about the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian (CJCC). Some of this information came from other inmates, some from books and pamphlets. The CJCC was founded after World War II by Dr. Wesley Swift. It is the religious arm of the political Aryan Nation, a right-wing, militant, white supremacist movement which espouses racial purity and separatism, along with hatred of all non-Aryan races, especially Jews and Blacks. The CJCC is now headed by Richard Butler and is based in Hayden Lake, Idaho. The theological philosophy of the CJCC is "Dualist/Identity".

In March 1992 the plaintiff requested that his prison records be changed to reflect his religious preference as "Dualist/Identity". That request was denied by the defendant R. Lane Andrist, the Chaplain at Hill. The plaintiff also requested that the CJCC be recognized as a religious group at Hill, and that inmates be allowed to meet and conduct religious services with an outside preacher. That request was denied by Chaplain Andrist and confirmed by Assistant Warden Wanda Brown and by Warden Jerry Gilmore. The plaintiff filed grievances regarding these decisions, which were denied. Hill Correctional Center has not recognized CJCC as a religious group and has not allowed group meetings.

During 1992 the plaintiff was sent publications from or about the CJCC and related organizations. These publications were rejected by Hill's publications review committee, which consisted of defendants Harriette McDonald, Diane Rockett and Marion Yeazle and were not given to the plaintiff. That decision was approved by Warden Gilmore. The disapproved publications were sent to the IDOC publications review committee, where they were reviewed by defendant James Simmons, who approved the Hill committee's decision to reject the material.

In August 1993, the plaintiff was transferred to Pontiac Correctional Center, where he is housed today. He alleges that officials at Pontiac have similarly refused to recognize the CJCC, but he has not named any Pontiac officials as defendants in this lawsuit.

LEGAL CLAIMS

The plaintiff makes two claims to this court. First, the plaintiff claims that his first amendment rights to free exercise of religion and his fourteenth amendment rights to equal protection of the laws have been violated by Hill's refusal to recognize the CJCC as a religious group; and second, that his first amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of his religion have been violated by the rejection of CJCC and related publications. The plaintiff argues that the free exercise claims must be analyzed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb. The plaintiff sues Andrist, Brown, Gilmore, McDonald, Rockett, Yeazle and Simmons in their official and individual capacities. He sues Odie Washington, the current director of the IDOC in his official capacity only.

The defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity on all of the plaintiff's claims; that under the applicable legal standards their actions regarding the plaintiff's claims were justified; and, that the RFRA is unconstitutional and should not apply to this case.

DISCUSSION

1. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION

The plaintiff claims that defendants Andrist, Brown and Gilmore have violated his free exercise rights by denying him access to group religious services in the prison and by refusing to allow him to re-designate his religious preference. He claims that defendants McDonald, Rockett, Yeazle, Simmons and Washington have violated his free exercise rights by denying him access to religious publications in the prison.

2. QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

A government official who, while acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of constitutionally protected rights may be subject to personal liability for civil damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, "the defense of qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions `from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Marshall v. Allen, 984 F.2d 787, 791 (7th. Cir. 1993) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 819, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). Courts require officials to adhere to rules that have been made specific enough to set operational guidelines. The contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he or she is doing violates that right. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 3039, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987).

It is not enough to state the general principle that officials may not infringe on the plaintiff's free exercise of his religion; the specific activity involved must be unlawful in the light of pre-existing law. Ibid. Principles of immunity stem from the belief that the law should develop in injunctive actions or damages actions against public bodies ...


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