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Brooks v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 12, 2016

COREY A. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL WILLIAMS, SHAWNEE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, and ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Corey Brooks filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in order to challenge the lack of approval of religious services that conform with the tenets of his religion and the denial of his request for a certain religious text by Shawnee Correctional Center ("Shawnee"). (Doc. 1). He sues Michael Williams (Chaplain at Shawnee), Shawnee Correctional Center, and the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") for injunctive relief only. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

         This 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 § 1915 A.

         The Complaint

         Given Plaintiffs pro se status, the Court will construe his Complaint liberally. See Ambrose v. Roeckeman, 749 F.3d 615, 618 (7th Cir. 2014). Plaintiff is a recent convert to Rastafarianism. (Doc. 1, p. 5). According to the Complaint, he seeks to learn more about and practice his religion through reading certain religious texts, including the "holy Piby" by Robert Rogers, and participating in a Sabbath service on Fridays and Saturdays, which Plaintiff also calls his holy Piby. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6). Though prison officials granted Plaintiffs request for a religious diet in May of 2016, his June 19, 2016 grievance regarding his request to the chaplain for Sabbath services had not been approved or denied, and was presumably still "under review" as of August 24, 2016 when he signed his Complaint requesting injunctive relief to mandate such services. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 9-10).

         Plaintiff further contends that, despite Rastafarians not being granted the opportunity to have Sabbath services, there is a well-known religion that is allowed to have such services at Shawnee. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 9-10). In support of this contention, Plaintiff has included with this Complaint a "Chaplaincy Service Quick Intake" form that evidences that there are no Rastafari services offered and, furthermore, that there are services offered on Fridays and Saturdays for other religions, including Islam, Mennonite, Pentecostal, and Christian. (Doc. 1, p. 17). In connection with these claimed deprivations, Plaintiff now seeks injunctive relief against the defendants. (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8).

         Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         To 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 Plaintiffs pro se Complaint into the following enumerated counts:

Count 1:Defendants denied Plaintiff access to Rastafari Sabbath services in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-l(a));
Count 2:Defendants denied Plaintiff access to a holy Piby religious text in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-l(a)); and
Count 3:Defendants denied Plaintiff equal protection of the law guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment and violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when treating his request for Sabbath services differently than identical requests of members of other religions.

         Discussion

         Counts 1 and 2 - Free Exercise and RLUIPA Claims

         The 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). The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") offers even broader protections than the First Amendment. Grayson v. Schuler,666 F.3d 450, 451 (7th Cir. 2012). RLUIPA applies to state and local governments and to those acting under color of state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-5(4). It offers broad protection to institutionalized persons by prohibiting substantial burdens on their religious exercise. § 2000cc-3(g). This protection extends to "any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or ...


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