The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:
E-FILED Tuesday, 16 October, 2012 03:57:15 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated in Western Illinois Correctional Center, pursues claims arising from the denial of his request for a religious diet. The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
The Court is required by § 1915A to review a Complaint filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer and, through such process, to identify cognizable claims, dismissing any claim that is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." A hearing is held if necessary to assist the Court in this review, but, in this case, the Court concludes that no hearing is necessary. The Complaint and its attachments are clear enough on their own for this Court to perform its merit review of Plaintiff's Complaint.
The review standard under § 1915A is the same as the notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim, the allegations must set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations must give enough detail to give "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)(add'l citation omitted)). The factual "allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged . . . . Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555-56). However, pro se pleadings are liberally construed when applying this standard. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).
As part of Plaintiff's practice of the House of Yahweh religion, Plaintiff consumes a kosher or vegetarian diet. His request for a religious diet was approved in May 2011 at Graham Correctional Center. Three months later Plaintiff was transferred to Western Correctional Center. He sent a religious diet request to Chaplain Twaddell, but Twaddell did not respond. Plaintiff then filed a grievance complaining about the lack of religious services at Western and his need for a religious diet. After Plaintiff filed the grievance, Twaddell further delayed consideration of Plaintiff's request and then ultimately denied the request on the grounds of Plaintiff's lack of sincerity-Twaddell essentially concluded that Plaintiff was seeking the diet for non-religious reasons. Plaintiff's grievance was denied by the other defendants based on Chaplain Twaddell's conclusions. Whether Plaintiff is now receiving his religious diet is unclear.
Prisoners have a First Amendment right to reasonable opportunities to practice their religion, subject to the legitimate penological concerns of the prison. Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709 (7th Cir. 2011); Ortiz v. Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 669 (7th Cir. 2009). The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") also protects an inmate's right to practice his religion, forbidding a "substantial burden" on that exercise unless the burden furthers a "compelling government interest" and is the "least restrictive means" of achieving that interest. 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). Injunctive relief is available under RLUIPA but damages are not. Grayson v. Schuler, 666 F.3d 450, 451 (7th Cir. 2012)(RLUIPA "does not create a cause of action against state employees in their personal capacity," but injunctive relief is available). Only sincerely held religious beliefs are protected, but the denial of a religious practice request on the grounds of insincerity must have a reasonable basis in fact. Koger v. Bryan, 523 F.3d 789, 797 (7th Cir. 2008)(citing Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 725 n. 13 (2005)("[P]rison officials may appropriately question whether a prisoner's religiosity, asserted as the basis for a requested accommodation, is authentic."); Grayson v. Schuler, 666 F.3d 450, 455 (7th Cir. 2012)(no qualified immunity because no indication that defendant "reasonably thought the plaintiff insincere in his religious belief.").
Plaintiff states a First Amendment claim against Chaplain Twaddell for allegedly delaying and then denying Plaintiff's request for a religious diet. Whether legitimate reasons exist for those actions must await a more developed record. Plaintiff may also have a claim for injunctive relief under RLUIPA if he still has not received his religious diet.
Plaintiff asserts that he also has an Eighth Amendment claim because Twaddell's denial amounted to the wanton infliction of pain. The Court believes that Plaintiff's claim better fits under the First Amendment, but an Eighth Amendment claim will remain in for further development. Plaintiff might be alleging that he was unable to consume enough food to sustain himself because of the delay and denial.
None of the other Defendants are liable simply based on their denial of Plaintiff's grievance. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2007)("Only persons who cause or participate in the violations are responsible. Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation."). These ...