court — that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548.
Once the moving party has filed a properly supported motion,
the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The nonmoving party "may not rest upon the
mere allegations or denials of the [nonmoving] party's pleadings,"
id., but must support its response with affidavits, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file. See Celotex,
477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Schoch v. First Fidelity
Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990).
To determine whether summary judgment is appropriate, the court
must determine whether any genuine issue of material fact exists.
An issue is "material" only if the dispute "might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law." See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). An issue is "genuine" only "if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Id. of course, "[c]redibility determinations,
the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate
inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a
judge." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505; see also Big
Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d
Cir. 1992). Moreover, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be
believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his
favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505; see also Big
Apple BMW, 974 F.2d at 1363. Thus, at the summary judgment stage
the only inquiry is the threshold one of determining whether
there is the need for a trial, that is, "whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a
jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as
a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505.
Once this process has taken place and the court determines that
there are no triable issues of fact, the court proceeds to decide
whether the law and the facts a claim has been stated. I conclude
that there are no facts to be tried and, considering the facts on
the record, that plaintiff fails to prevail as a matter of law.
III. 42 U.S.C. § 1983
In order to bring a successful § 1983 claim, a plaintiff
must demonstrate (1) that the challenged conduct was committed by
a person acting under color of state law, and (2) that the
conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity
secured by the Constitution or federal law. See Parratt v. Taylor,
451 U.S. 527, 535, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981);
Piecknick v. Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994);
Carter v. City of Philadelphia, 989 F.2d 117, 119 (3d Cir. 1993).
Muhammad brings his § 1983 claims against all defendants on
the basis of violations of RFRA and the free exercise clause of
the First Amendment.
A. Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Muhammad alleges that the defendants violated his rights under
RFRA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb. However, in City of Boerne v.
Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 117 S.Ct. 2157, 138 L.Ed.2d 624 (1997), the
Supreme Court held RFRA unconstitutional because Congress exceeded
its enforcement power granted under Section 5 of the Fourteenth
Amendment when enacting RFRA. Therefore, Muhammad's RFRA claims
must be dismissed.
B. Free Exercise
Muhammad alleges that the defendants infringed his free exercise
rights and seeks "declaratory, injunctive, compensatory, and
punitive damages" for this violation. Muhammad has been
incarcerated at SCI, Coal Township since October 27, 1995.
Complaint, ¶ 13. He does not allege that he will be returned to
Lehigh County Prison. Thus, neither declaratory nor injunctive
relief is available. See Maldonado v. Houstoun, 157 F.3d 179, 184
(3d Cir. 1998) (injunction); Versarge v. Township of Clinton,
984 F.2d 1359, 1369 (3d Cir. 1993) (declaratory judgment).
Muhammad has not alleged any facts implicating Richard Klotz in
the alleged constitutional violations. Therefore, the claims
against this defendant will be dismissed.*fn4 See
28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B)(ii).
The remaining individual defendants, Warden Sweeney and
Chaplain Claudio, assert that qualified immunity shields them
from liability on the free exercise claim. "As government
officials engaged in discretionary functions, [d]efendants are
qualifiedly immune from suits brought against them for damages
under section 1983, `insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.'" Sherwood v. Mulvihill,
113 F.3d 396, 398-99 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald,)
457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). Thus,
Harlow provides the court with an objective standard against
which to measure the official's actions. When applying this
objective standard, the court must first decide whether the
plaintiff has stated a violation of a constitutional or federal
statutory right. Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 232,
111 S.Ct. 1789, 114 L.Ed.2d 277 (1991). If the plaintiff has
stated a violation, the court must clarify whether that right was
clearly established at the time of the violation, i.e., were the
"contours of the right . . . 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, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987). As the defendants have
asserted a qualified immunity defense in a motion for summary
judgment, Muhammad must show that the defendants' conduct violated
some clearly established statutory or constitutional right.
Sherwood, 113 F.3d at 399.
Prisoners*fn5 do not forfeit their first amendment protections
by reason of their incarceration. O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz,
482 U.S. 342, 348, 107 S.Ct. 2400, 96 L.Ed.2d 282 (1987). The
fact of incarceration and valid penological objectives, however,
require and justify limitations on numerous privileges and rights.
Id. "When a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional
rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to
legitimate penological interests." O'Lone, 482 U.S. at 349,
107 S.Ct. 2400 (citing Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89,
107 S.Ct. 2254, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987)). Thus a prisoner's right to
first amendment protection is circumscribed by legitimate needs
of the penal institution. The unrebutted evidence submitted by
the defendants indicates that the plaintiff has failed to state a
violation of the circumscribed right.
Muhammad asserts that his free exercise rights were violated
because he could not engage in congregational prayer during
Ramadan. The impeded Ramadan sacraments were Fard Salatul al
Jumman, Iqra al Qur'an ul Jumman, and Iftar ul Jumman. Instead
of these services, the Muslim inmates had the opportunity to
engage in one supervised congregational evening prayer.
The limitations on the first amendment rights of inmates are
outlined in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 107 S.Ct. 2254,
96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987). As summarized by the Third Circuit in
Johnson v. Horn, 150 F.3d 276, 282 (3d Cir. 1998), the factors
that impact on the limitations are: (1) whether there is a
rational connection between the regulation and the penological
interest asserted; (2) whether inmates have alternative means of
exercising their rights; (3) what impact accommodation of the
right will have on guards, other inmates and the allocation of
prison resources generally and (4) whether alternative methods
for accommodation exist at de minimis cost to the penological
The first Turner factor considers the relationship between the
regulation and the penological interest. The Ramadan participants
came from ten different housing units. Each separate housing unit
contains prisoners with a different level of security risk.
For these reasons, group activities involving the Ramadan
participants raise internal order and security concerns.
The second Turner factor considers whether alternative means of
exercising the right exist. As the right to free exercise must be
construed "sensibly and expansively," Thornburgh v. Abbott,
490 U.S. 401, 417, 109 S.Ct. 1874, 104 L.Ed.2d 459 (1989), it
must be determined whether Muhammad retains "the ability to
participate in other Muslim religious ceremonies." O'Lone, 482
U.S. at 352, 107 S.Ct. 2400. Muhammad had other avenues of
religious expression available. He was able to fast during the
daylight hours because the defendants made meals available at
alternative times. He was able to attend the Eidul al Fitra
festival meal at the conclusion of Ramadan. Furthermore, the
weekly Talim and Jumah services, which feature congregational
prayer, were continued during Ramadan. Cf. O'Lone, 482 U.S. 342,
107 S.Ct. 2400, 96 L.Ed.2d 282 (upholding regulation preventing
Jumah attendance). Finally, nothing impeded Muhammad's individual
prayer. Cf. Cooper v. Tard, 855 F.2d 125 (3d Cir. 1988) (noting
Islamic acceptance of individual prayer). Therefore, Muhammad had
alternative means of exercising his right to free exercise.
The third Turner factor measures the impact of accommodation on
the resources available in the prison. Every day, numerous group
activities occurred in Lehigh County Prison. The large number of
activities made it impossible for prison staff to oversee every
activity requiring supervision. In an attempt to solve this
problem, the prison administration developed a policy of outside
community volunteers. In particular, space was made available for
congregational Ramadan prayers if an approved community volunteer
attended. It is uncontested that volunteers had been approved.
The fourth Turner factor examines the availability of ready
alternatives to the regulation. Keeping in mind that courts must
defer to the judgment of prison officials on "difficult and
sensitive matters of institutional administration," O'Lone, 482
U.S. at 353, 107 S.Ct. 2400 (citing Block v. Rutherford,
468 U.S. 576, 588, 104 S.Ct. 3227, 82 L.Ed.2d 438 (1984)), and
noting that Muhammad has presented no alternatives, there are a
number of apparent options. As previously discussed, the limited
resources in Lehigh County Prison eliminated the potential for
prison staff supervision of all inmate group activities. At the
other extreme, canceling all group functions is not a viable
option. As a middle ground, unsupervised group activity could
occur more broadly. This choice, however, would increase security
risks at the prison. See, e.g., O'Lone, 482 U.S. at 353,
107 S.Ct. 2400 (noting special dangers posed by affinity groups).
This analysis reveals that no material facts remain in issue
with respect to Muhammad's first amendment rights. Muhammad has
failed to state a claim involving his right to free exercise of
religion. Therefore, in accordance with Siegert, Muhammad cannot
overcome defendants' qualified immunity defense. Summary judgment
will be entered in favor of the defendants on the plaintiffs free
AND NOW, this 27th day of January, 1999, IT IS ORDERED THAT
defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED (docket # 33).
Judgment is entered in favor of all defendants.