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Mack v. Walker

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 14, 2018

CARL MACK Plaintiff,
v.
ASSISTANT WARDEN WALKER, et al., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Hon. Reona J. Daly United States Magistrate Judge.

         The matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge Reona J. Daly by United States District Judge David R. Herndon pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), and SDIL-LR 72.1(a) for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 21). It is RECOMMENDED that the District Court ADOPT the following findings of fact and conclusions of law, and Plaintiff's Motion be DENIED.

         Findings of Fact

         Plaintiff Carl Mack, an inmate housed at Shawnee Correctional Center (“Shawnee”), brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(A), in order to challenge the denial of access to Hebrew Israelite worship services at Shawnee.

         Following threshold screening, Plaintiff is proceeding on the following claims:

Count 1: Defendants denied Plaintiff access to Hebrew Israelite religious worship services at Shawnee, in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Count 2: Defendants denied Plaintiff access to Hebrew Israelite religious worship services at Shawnee, in violation of RLUIPA.

         Plaintiff asserts he is a practicing Hebrew Israelite. He testified that when he arrived at Shawnee on August 29, 2017, he submitted a written request for access to Hebrew Israelite worship services. The prison chaplain met with Plaintiff to discuss his request and explained that he was not familiar with Plaintiff's religion but would speak with the assistant warden about the availability of worship services. After doing so, the chaplain and assistant warden offered to set up a meeting with Plaintiff and the prison's rabbi. Plaintiff objected that the meeting was unnecessary because Plaintiff is not Jewish. The chaplain and assistant warden nevertheless scheduled a meeting with the rabbi. Rabbi Scheimann met with Plaintiff and they agreed that a rabbi could do nothing for Plaintiff because his religion is unrelated to Judaism.

         Plaintiff testified he reached out to Yisrayl Hawkins, faith leader of the House of Yahweh, about securing services for his religion. Plaintiff received a letter back from the Texas-based House of Yahweh referring him to an Illinois-based group called the People of Yahweh led by John Williams. Plaintiff sent a letter to the People of Yahweh and they responded that John Williams, or a representative from the group, would be willing to provide religious services to Plaintiff. Plaintiff testified he forwarded the letter to the chaplain but received no response. Plaintiff does not have copies of any correspondence between himself and either of these religious groups. To date, Plaintiff alleges no services have been offered to him. Plaintiff testified he has not followed up with the chaplain regarding the letter from the People of Yahweh offering to provide services.

         Plaintiff alleges that the lack of access to Hebrew Israelite services and fellowship is causing him stress and psychological harm. He further asserts that the psychological stress has exacerbated his diabetes necessitating an increase in insulin.

         Defendants assert that no Hebrew Israelite services are offered or have ever been offered since Plaintiff arrived at Shawnee. Defendants set forth the procedures in place for requesting religious services. Administrative Code § 425.60(f) requires when no chaplain of a particular faith is available, an offender is required to submit written verification to the facility that he has attempted to locate and secure the services of religious leaders of his faith and that such persons refused or were not approved to conduct religious activities. 20 Ill. Admin. Code § 425.60(f)(1). The offender must also provide written verification that attendance at existing religious activities does not satisfy the recognized tenants of his faith. Further, the offender must provide a written agreement by a chaplain of that faith group to provide general oversight and guidance of the religious activity received.

         Defendants assert Plaintiff has not filed written verifications as required by the Code. Kenneth Cole, the former chaplain, testified that he did not receive an application for communal worship from Plaintiff, or any letters from outside faith leaders regarding a willingness to provide communal worship services. Samuel Sterrett, the current chaplain, testified that he has received requests from Plaintiff requesting Hebrew Israelite holiday meals but that he has not received an application regarding services. He also testified he has not received any letters from the People of Yahweh or John Williams.

         Conclusions of Law

         “The purpose of preliminary injunctive relief is to minimize the hardship to the parties pending the ultimate resolution of the lawsuit.” Platinum Home Mortg. Corp. v. Platinum Fin. Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 722, 726 (7th Cir.1998). “In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must show that: (1) they are reasonably likely to succeed on the merits; (2) no adequate remedy at law exists; (3) they will suffer irreparable harm which, absent injunctive relief, outweighs the irreparable harm the respondent will suffer if the injunction is ...


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