United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.
The matter is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss (DE 39) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
On August 14, 2013, plaintiff filed this action, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the following defendants: Commissioner for the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction, David Guice ("Guice"); Director of Prisons, George Solomon ("Solomon"); Deputy Director of Prisons, Gwen Norveil ("Norveil"); and Security Threat Group ("STG") coordinator, Larry Dunston ("Dunston"). The court subsequently permitted plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, and notified plaintiff that any amended complaint he subsequently filed would constitute the complaint in its entirety.
On November 27, 2013, plaintiff filed his amended complaint adding the following defendants: Secretary of the Department of Public Safety ("DPS"), Kieran Shanahan ("Shanahan"); and Director of Chaplaincy Services, Betty Brown ("Brown"). In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendants violated his rights pursuant to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also alleged that defendants violated his rights pursuant to the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use of Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1, et seq.
On April 10, 2014, the court entered an order in which it dismissed Norveil from this action because plaintiff failed to allege facts against Norveil in the amended complaint. The court also allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claims against the remaining defendants.
On July 28, 2014, defendants Brown, Dunston, Guice, Shanahan, and Solomon filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) arguing that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Defendants, alternatively, assert the affirmative defense of qualified immunity. The motion was fully briefed.
STATEMENT OF THE FACTS
The facts viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff are as follows. Plaintiff, a state inmate, challenges DPS's "absolute ban" on the practice of the Nations of Gods and Earths ("NGE"), commonly referred to as "Five Percenters" or "The Five Percenters Nation." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 12.)
Plaintiff provides a detailed history of NGE and admits that NGE does not have "an organizational structure or hierarchy[.]" (Id. ¶¶ 12-18, 23.) NGE is similar to the Nation of Islam ("NOI") religion and has some overlapping teachings and practices with NOI because the groups share the same central text including "120 Degrees, " "Supreme Mathematics, " and "Supreme Alphabet." (Id. ¶ 16.) The study of these text is "essential [and] imperative within the NGE belief system in attaining knowledge of self." (Id. ¶ 17.) NGE members also study secondary texts including literature published by the "Allah School in Mecca, " the "Allah youth Center in Mecca, " "The Sun of Man Publications, " "Supreme Design Publishing, " and "A-Team Publishing." (Id. ¶ 20.) NGE members must study the primary and secondary texts in conjunction "to get a deeper meaning in the teachings." (Id.)
In addition to similar literature and practices, NGE and NOI share the same dietary restrictions and both groups refrain from consuming and using pork or pork products. (Id. ¶ 18.) The groups also share the practice of fasting in observance of the holy days. (Id. ¶ 19.) Specifically, NGE members observe the following holy days: (1) the birth and death of NCG founder, Clarence 13x; (2) the birthday of NOI founder W.D. Ford; and (3) the birthday of Elijah Muhammad. (Id.)
Not every aspect of NGE and NOI are similar. For instance, unlike NOI, NGE does not prohibit Caucasians from practicing its beliefs. (Id. ¶ 24.) NGE also has its own group services called "Civilization Classes, " "Parliaments, " and "Rallies." (Id. ¶ 22.) Civilization classes are conducted weekly and involve more experienced members "educat[ing] newer members in [NGE] lessons and how they can be applied." (Id.) Parliaments are monthly gatherings where members "com[e] together and help one another gain insight from the [NGE] teachings and applications." (Id.) Finally, "[r]allies are gatherings that are outside events held annually through June, July, [and] August which the lessons [and] its principles are discussed as well as celebrating activities." (Id.)
Members of NGE also use the "Five Percenters" newspaper as "a platform to carry the central message and teachings to the NGE community." (Id. ¶ 23.) The "Five Percenters" newspaper serves as a "vital [and] principle link" for incarcerated inmates to communicate with the NGE community outside of prison. (Id.)
Plaintiff states that the DPS administrative ban on the practice of NGE and designation of NGE as a "Security Threat Group" ("STG") prevents him from engaging in the above-referenced NGE practices and violates ...