The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.
In this § 1983 action, plaintiff Elijah Muhammad, a pro se
prisoner, seeks damages and injunctive relief from defendants
Richard Klotz, director, Edward Sweeney, warden, and Samuel
Claudio, chaplain, of the Lehigh County Prison. Plaintiff claims
that defendants' actions during Ramadan which began February 1,
1995 and concluded March 3, 1995 while plaintiff was being
detained at Lehigh County Prison, violated his right to free
exercise under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The defendants move for
summary judgment. Their motion will be granted.
Lehigh County Prison is a maximum security facility. (Sweeney
aff. ¶ 15). As a county facility, it holds both pretrial detainees
and sentenced inmates for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to
felonies to capital homicide. In addition to these state criminal
offenders, it holds federal inmates, those detained by the INS,
and civil contempt offenders. Its multiple housing units are
segregated according to the severity of the crime and the
security risk presented by the inmate. (Sweeney aff. ¶ 16).
While incarcerated, inmates can engage in group activities.
Each day, the six activity areas are for more than twelve hours
apiece. (Sweeney aff. ¶¶ 9-11, Defs. exh. A, at Sweeney 8).
Supervision of the inmates during these group activities presents
security concerns. (Sweeney aff. ¶ 13). Due to the large number
of activities, prison staff cannot supervise each one. (Sweeney
aff. ¶ 12). To enable more activities, Lehigh County Prison
adopted a policy of using approved outside community volunteers
to supervise group activities. (Sweeney aff. ¶ 13). In addition,
a March 21, 1995 memo further clarified the procedure for those
activities that do not require the presence of either prison
staff or an outside volunteer.*fn2 (Pl. response to defs. motion
for summary judgment, exh. 1).
On December 28, 1994, the Islamic Community of Lehigh County
Prison, of which Muhammad was a member, sent a memo to Warden
Sweeney. (Complaint, opening ¶). The group sought accommodations
for the religious needs of Muslims incarcerated at Lehigh County
Prison during Ramadan. It listed the seven necessary requirements
to proper Ramadan observance. (Pl. statement to show cause, exh. 1).
The requirements focus on congregational worship and fasting.*fn3
On January 25, 1995, Warden Sweeney distributed a memo to prison
personnel regarding the observance of Ramadan. (Defs. exh. A, at
Sweeney 1). According to the memo, Lehigh County Prison would
provide the Muslim inmates with a predawn meal in their cells and
an evening meal after sunset in the day room. In addition, all
daily Ramadan prayers and rituals were to be conducted by the
inmates alone in their cells, though the regular, weekly Talim
and Jumah services would continue as a group activity. The memo
established prerequisites for
inmate attendance at Eidul al Fitra. Finally, a list of the
inmates observing Ramadan was to be maintained by Chaplain
On January 26, 1995, Chaplain Claudio issued a memo on Ramadan
observance to the inmate population. (Pl. statement to show cause,
exh. 2). It required that any inmate seeking to participate in
Ramadan observance submit a request to him. His list allowed
participating inmates to comply with the fasting requirement by
removing them from the regular meal schedule. (id.). The number
of inmates participating in Ramadan ranged from sixteen to
twenty-seven. (Defs. exh. A, at Sweeney 3, Sweeney 4, Sweeney
5). These participants came from ten different housing units in
the prison. (id.). On January 31, 1995, the Islamic Community of
Lehigh County Prison sent a memo to Chaplain Claudio indicating
that his memo was insufficient because it only provided for
fasting and neglected the more important congregational worship.
(Pl. statement to show cause, exh. 3).
Throughout this period, Muhammad talked with both Warden
Sweeney and Chaplain Claudio regarding what he considered to be
the insufficient opportunity provided Islamic inmates to observe
Ramadan. (Complaint, ¶¶ 2, 4, 8, 10). In addition, Kamal M.
El-Shaarawy, the Outside Volunteer Coordinator for the Islamic
Community at Lehigh County Prison, spoke with both Warden Sweeney
and Chaplain Claudio about Ramadan.(Complaint, ¶ 7, Sweeney aff.
In early February, Mr. El-Shaarawy and Warden Sweeney discussed
the issue of congregational evening prayer. According to Warden
Sweeney, on February 7, 1995 he told Mr. El-Shaarawy that
congregational evening prayer would only be allowed if an
approved volunteer attended because the sole program areas
available were those where inmates were not permitted to
congregate without staff or volunteer supervision. (Defs. exh. A,
at Sweeney 6).
On February 10, 1995, Mr. El-Shaarawy informed Warden Sweeney
that he might be able to locate a volunteer to attend
congregational evening prayer. Later that day, Assistant Warden
Dale Meisel issued a memo regarding those services. (Defs. exh.
A, at Sweeney 6). A room for congregational prayer would be
provided from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. daily. Under this arrangement,
however, the service would only be held if an outside volunteer
was present. Volunteers had been approved by the prison
authorities for this purpose. (Sweeney aff. ¶¶ 7 G, I).
In addition to Mr. El-Shaarawy, Dr. Mohamed Eid, Chairman of
the Muslim Association of Lehigh Valley, was involved in the
effort to resolve the issue of congregational evening prayer. On
February 21, 1995, he sent a letter to Warden Sweeney on Ramadan
observance. (Pl. statement to show cause, exh. 4). Warden
Sweeney's response reiterated his position on the need for an
outside volunteer at the group prayer. (Defs. exh. A, at Sweeney 6).
Ramadan observance followed the procedures outlined in Warden
Sweeney's January 25, 1995 memo, concluding with Eidul al Fitra
on March 3, 1995. (Sweeney aff. ¶ 7, pl. dep. at 17, 18, 20, 25,
26, 28, 29). Precisely two years later, Muhammad ...