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Logan v. Lockett

March 25, 2009

DAVID LOGAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MELVIN LOCKETT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Bissoon

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

David Logan (ALogan@ or APlaintiff@), is a state prisoner who has filed a civil rights action pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. Logan alleges in his Complaint that he was denied the right to participate in Ramadan fasting with the rest of the Muslim community at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in September and October, 2007. He asserts that this violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment (Docs. 25 and 44).

A. Underlying Facts

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on September 13, 2007, and ended on October 12, 2007. The State Correctional Institution at Greensburg provides an accommodation to Muslim inmates who wish to fast during Ramadan that consists of having breakfast bags distributed to inmates in their cells prior to sunrise, and then a communal meal is held in the inmate dining hall after sunset (Doc. 28, Exhibit A, ¶¶ 13-15). The responsibility for determining which inmates participate in the fast and communal meal rests with David Watkins, the Facility Chaplaincy Program Director at SCI-Greenburg (Id., ¶4). Mr. Watkins was assisted by Abdullah Rahim Muhammad, the Islamic Chaplain (Imam), at SCI-Greensburg, in making the determination of inmate participation (Id., ¶¶ 20-21).*fn1 Mr. Watkins has attested that an inmate wishing to participate in the communal Ramadan fasting at SCI-Greensburg is included on the list if: (1) he signs the Ramadan sign-up sheet posted in the Prison Chapel at the final prayer service prior to Ramadan; or (2) he has participated in at least 60% of the weekly ("Juma") prayer services (Id., ¶¶ 26-27). An inmate who does not sign up, or who does not meet the standards for automatic inclusion, may nonetheless fast in his cell (Id., ¶ 25).

Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that he prepared an "inmate request to staff" and sent it to Imam Muhammad on August 18, 2007, requesting that his name be included on the Ramadan fasting list (Doc. 3, p. 3, ¶5). When he was not provided with a morning meal on September 13, 2007, and when he was not permitted to attend the evening communal meal later that same day, Plaintiff contacted his counselor who, in turn, is alleged to have contacted Imam Muhammad. Imam Muhammad is said to have informed Plaintiff‟s counselor that Plaintiff was kept off of the fasting list because he failed to attend 60% of the Imam‟s weekly prayer services (Id., p. 4, ¶¶ 16-17).

Plaintiff filed a grievance dated September 15, 2007, in which he asserted that "as a practicing Muslim" he should have been permitted to participate in the Ramadan fast, but that he was denied the opportunity to do so on the basis that he had not attended prayer services for the previous "nine months" (Doc. 28, Ex. E). Mr. Watkins denied Plaintiff‟s Grievance on October 2, 2007 (Doc. 28, Ex. F). Specifically, Watkins noted that the "list of those who receive breakfast bag meals and whom break the fast together after sunset is comprised of those who regularly attend Juma Prayer each Friday." (Id.). Watkins stated that a review of the records kept by Imam Muhammad showed that Plaintiff attended only one prayer service, and that was on August 17, 2007, even though Plaintiff had been at SCI-Greensburg for "well over a year." (Id.). Mr. Watkins then made the following observations:

When you and I discussed your grievance on September 27, you made it very clear that the reason you refused to attend the weekly Juma Prayer services was that you had a very different view of Islam than what is taught by SCI-Greensburg‟s Islamic Chaplain, Abdullah Rahim

Muhammad. I then asked if you were aware that the Inmate Imam, Ralph Bolden delivered the Khut-ba more than half the time. You said that you were aware but that did not agree with what he taught also. You made it quite plain that you did not like the entire attitude and atmosphere of the Islamic Community here at Greensburg.

Mr. Logan, according to Department of Corrections policy you are free to practice whatever religion you choose in the privacy of your cell. You may fast the meals of your choice according to your religious belief.

However, the decision to choose who may participate in the observance of Ramadan and the Eid Feasts is left to the Islamic Chaplain. Why you would choose to break your fast with a community of Muslims that you are vocally opposed to is of deep concern to me. (Id.). Mr. Watkins then affirmed, or agreed with, Imam Muhammad‟s decision to leave Plaintiff off of the Ramadan fasting list.

The matter was then forwarded to Superintendent Lockett, also a Defendant in this case. Plaintiff, in an October 5, 2007 appeal from the denial of his grievance, argued that "there is nothing in the D.O.C. policies and more importantly in the Religion of Islam that says that a Muslim has to attend "60% or better‟ of Friday services in order to seek the blessings of fasting a month which has unlimited rewards." (Doc. 28, Ex. G). Logan complained that the prison failed to provide him with "a well balanced meal" and that he suffered abdominal pain, headaches and exhaustion (Id.). Plaintiff challenged Watkins‟ conclusion that Plaintiff is not a "member" of the Islamic faith. In his October 10, 2007 response, Superintendent Lockett stated that he supported Mr. Watkins‟s decision (Doc. 28, Ex. H):

You have not met the minimum standards of participation and criteria established by the organizers and Islamic Chaplain. Your views differ from the majority teachings and you chose to have no association with them. You have expressed your displeasure with the atmosphere of the Islamic Community of SCI-Greensburg and your lack of participation speaks volumes. You may make provisions afforded within policy for the free exercise of your religion in the privacy of your cell. You have not been acknowledged by the organizers, Facility Chaplain Director, or Muslim Chaplain as participating in the facility observance. The orderly, respectful, united observance of Ramadan is our goal with consideration for those abiding the rules and regulations governing the observance. You are not entitled to monetary compensation.

(Id.).

Logan pursued the administrative appeals process further and, ultimately, on December 12, 2007, Cindy Watson, Chief Grievance Coordinator, overturned the responses by Mr. Watkins and Superintendent Lockett. Ms. Watson stated that "all subsequent directives regarding participation in special religious observances [would] provide clear guidelines by which institutions can determine whether or not it is appropriate for an inmate to participate in special religious observances based on sincerely-held religious beliefs which are not dependent on one single criteria." (Doc. 28, Ex. I). Ms. Watson also noted Plaintiff‟s complaint ...


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