United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
RODNEY C. HAMRICK, #01192-087, Plaintiff,
MAUREEN P. BAIRD, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge.
Rodney Hamrick filed this pro se civil rights action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 for alleged violations of
his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color
of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named
Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Specifically, he is suing
to challenge the denial of congregate prayer at the United
States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois
(“Marion”), which he alleges is required by the
tenets of his religion. (Doc. 1). He sues Maureen P. Baird,
warden of Marion, for declaratory and injunctive relief.
case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under §
1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner
complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion
of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks
for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Upon review of the
allegations, the Court finds that the complaint survives
preliminary review under § 1915A.
Rodney Hamrick is a prisoner who, at the time of filing the
complaint, was incarcerated in the Communications Management
Unit (“CMU”) at Marion. (Doc. 1, p. 4). He is
currently incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Complex
(“FCC”) in Terre Haute, Indiana.(Doc. 9, p. 1).
According to the complaint, Hamrick is an adherent of the
Hanbali School of Islam, in which the completion of five
daily prayers in congregation is a firmly rooted religious
exercise. (Doc. 1, p. 4). Hamrick further alleges that he
believes congregation for all five daily prayers is a
mandatory part of his religion. Id. According to the
complaint, congregate prayer and Hamrick's ability to
engage in daily group prayer with his fellow Muslim inmates
is absolutely prohibited at Marion by Defendant's current
policy, which has resulted in numerous Muslim inmates being
written up and punished for praying in groups, while other
non-Muslims are allowed to engage in various group
activities. Id. Hamrick alleges that the continuous
risk of discipline for engaging in daily congregate prayer
has had a chilling effect on his ability to follow the tenets
of his faith. Id.
Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in
this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 8(e) and 10(b), the Court deems it
appropriate to organize the claims in Plaintiff's pro
se complaint into the following enumerated counts:
Count 1: Defendant denied Plaintiff access to congregate
prayer with fellow Muslims in violation of the Free Exercise
Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (“RFRA”) (42 U.S.C. §
Count 2: Defendant denied Plaintiff equal protection of the
law guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause
when she imposed a policy resulting in treatment of Muslims
participating in group religious activities to be different
1-Free Exercise and RFRA
First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause prohibits prison
officials from imposing a substantial burden on the free
exercise of religion, unless the burden is reasonably related
to a legitimate penological interest. Kaufman v.
Pugh, 733 F.3d 692, 696 (7th Cir. 2013). RFRA offers
broader protections than the First Amendment and provides a
claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is
substantially burdened by the government, including prison
officials. 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(b)(2). RFRA specifically
restores “the compelling interest test as set forth in
Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) and
Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)” and
guarantees “its application in all cases where free
exercise of religion is substantially burdened.” 42
U.S.C. § 2000bb(b)(1).
in the complaint suggest that Plaintiff and other Muslim
inmates were denied the ability to exercise their faith by
participating in congregate prayer due to a policy
implemented by Defendant without a compelling reason and
without consideration of less restrictive alternatives. (Doc.
1, p. 4). This gives rise to a colorable First Amendment and
RFRA claim against Defendant.