United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary
Judgment by Defendants Betty Brown, Frank L. Perry, and Mike
Slagle, (Doc. No. 35).
Plaintiff Jimmy Allen Roberts, a North Carolina state inmate
currently incarcerated at Craggy Correctional Institution
(“Craggy”) in Asheville, North Carolina, filed
this action on February 16, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff has named as Defendants:
(1) Frank L. Perry, Secretary of the North Carolina
Department of Public Safety (“NCDPS”); (2) Betty
Brown, Director of Chaplaincy Services with the NCDPS; and
(3) Mike Slagle, Administrator of Mountain View Correctional
Institution (“MVCI”). Plaintiff contends that,
when he was incarcerated at MVCI, Defendants Perry, Brown,
and Slagle violated the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42
U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq, by failing to recognize
“Nation of Israel” as an approved religion and by
limiting the number of religious texts he can possess.
(Id. at 8-19). To summarize Plaintiff's claim,
Plaintiff argues that he applied for recognition of
“Nation of Israel” in 2014 by completing a form
DC-572. (Id. at 4-7). In 2015, he was informed that
the group would not be recognized and that his religious
texts would be limited according to North Carolina Department
of Public Safety (“NCDPS”) policy.
(Id.). Plaintiff claims this impedes his ability to
practice his religion. (Id.). Plaintiff also claims
that he attempted to contact North Carolina Prisoner Legal
Services (“NCPLS”) in 2015 for legal assistance,
but they declined to represent him. (Id. at 19-24).
According to Plaintiff, this constitutes a violation by
Defendants of his First Amendment right to access to the
courts. (Id.). Plaintiff requests declaratory and
injunctive relief. (Id. at 24-29).
filed the pending summary judgment motion on May 23, 2017.
(Doc. No. 35). On May 31, 2017, this Court entered an order
in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d
309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements
for filing a response to the summary judgment motion and of
the manner in which evidence could be submitted to the Court.
(Doc. No. 39). On June 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed an
“objection, ” which the Court will treat as his
response to the summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 40).
Plaintiff has attached various publications and prison
policies to his objection.
Defendants' Summary Judgment Materials
support the summary judgment motion, Defendants rely on all
pleadings, exhibits, and other documents incorporated into
the record, including the affidavits of Defendants Brown and
Slagle. In her affidavit, Defendant Brown states that, as
Director of Chaplaincy services, she has encountered only one
request related to Nation of Israel and that request was from
inmate Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 37 at ¶ 7: Brown Aff.).
Brown asserts that she has never met Plaintiff and only
engaged in limited correspondence with him because Chaplain
Edwards was tasked with communicating with Plaintiff about
his request. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 5, 8).
According to Brown, Plaintiff completed a form DC-572, or a
Request for Religious Assistance, and the form was
transmitted to Brown's office in September 2014.
(Id. at ¶¶ 9-11; Ex. A). The request was
then forwarded to the Religious Practices Committee
(“RPC”) on October 2, 2014, in accordance with
Religious Services Policy procedures. (Id. at
¶¶ 10, 14; Ex. A, B).
form indicates that Plaintiff was seeking recognition of
“Nation of Israel” as a religion and includes
information from two pastors about the group. (Id.
at ¶¶ 11-12). The pastors, who are in Kentucky and
Missouri, do not indicate that they have ever met Plaintiff.
(Doc. No. 37-1 at 8-9). The Nation of Israel information
supported by the pastors indicates that church membership is
limited to “racially pure Anglo-Saxon”
individuals-meaning whites only, and the information further
refers to Jews as a “mongrel race.” (Id.
at 11, 13). The church also allows inmates to serve as
priests. (Id. at 13). Brown asserts in her affidavit
that, although she does not substantively consider DC-572s,
she does cursorily review them before forwarding them to the
RPC. (Doc. No. 37 at ¶¶ 13-14, Ex. B). Brown opines
that neither the group's racist ideology nor the
sanctioning of inmates as priests is conducive to
correctional settings. (Id. at ¶ 13).
November 12, 2014, Plaintiff requested to know the status of
his DC-572. (Id. at ¶ 16, Ex. D). On December
16, 2014, Brown responded that the RPC was considering
Plaintiff's request. (Id. at ¶ 17, Ex. D).
On December 4, 2014, the RPC determined that, because of the
group's discriminatory rhetoric and Plaintiff's
security threat status, Nation of Israel would not be
recognized for purposes of the Religious Practices Manual
(“RPM”). (Id. at ¶ 18, Ex. E).
Specifically, the RPC concluded that Nation of Israel does
not necessarily hold itself out to be a religious group
separate from Christianity or Messianic Judaism requiring a
need for separate recognition. (Id. at ¶ 23).
Further, the RPC concluded-from the group's and
Plaintiff's own submitted materials-that the group is a
white supremacist or racially exclusive organization which
excludes non-whites from membership. (Id.). The RPC
also concluded that Plaintiff, who was designated as a
Messianic Jewish inmate, was permitted to worship that faith
in whatever fashion his custody level permitted, including
receiving a Kosher diet, as long as he is not disruptive or
presenting a threat to the institution. (Id. at
¶¶ 24, 25, 27). The RPC also noted that Plaintiff
could be accommodated though private devotion and Messianic
Jewish or Christian services because Messianic Jewish
designation and his beliefs appeared consistent with those
faith practices. (Id.).
Brown was informed of the December 2014 RPC meeting, she
requested that Chaplain Edwards meet with Plaintiff in
January 2015 to inform him of the RPC's determination.
(Id. at ¶ 20). In May 2015, Plaintiff wrote to
Brown again and requested to appeal the RPC's
determination. (Id. at ¶ 21, Ex. F). Edwards
again spoke with Plaintiff and informed him of the RPC
consensus. (Id. at ¶ 22, Ex. F).
Plaintiff's challenge to his designated security status,
Brown states in her affidavit that neither she nor the RPC
make determinations related to security threat or risk groups
(“STG” or “SRG”) and did not
designate Plaintiff as a member of either group.
(Id. at ¶ 26). Brown further states that
neither she nor the RPC make determinations related to the
permissibility of publications. (Id. at ¶ 28).
She states, however, that Plaintiff would be able to receive
any publications, including Nation of Israel publications, as
long as they were approved by the review policy set forth by
the publications policy and committee. Generally, to receive
publications, the materials must be free of gang-related
information, racist information, violence, and the like.
(Id. at ¶ 29). Brown asserts that she did not
review any materials indicating that Plaintiff was prohibited
from possessing appropriate religious material. (Id.
at ¶ 30). Brown also did not see any information
indicating that Nation of Israel beliefs require Plaintiff to
possess more religious materials than other inmates.
(Id.). Facilities make determinations on how many
religious texts that inmates may possess based on the
facility's security and operational needs.
Brown asserts that DPS has refused to recognize Nation of
Israel as a group because of its hateful, racist, and
separatist rhetoric, as established and documented in its own
literature. (Id. at ¶ 31). Brown further opines
that groups espousing racist ideals are not suitable to DPS
recognition because the violence and racist ideals promoted
by the groups are not suitable in a correctional setting.
(Id. at ¶ 32). Such groups are usually intended
to instill violence, revolt, and racism against non-white
support of the summary judgment motion, Defendants have also
submitted the affidavit of Defendant Slagle, current
Administrator of MVCI. (Doc. No. 36 at ¶ 3: Slagle
Aff.). He was not the Administrator of MVCI before 2015, but
was employed at the facility. (Id. at ¶ 4).
Slagle asserts that he had no interactions with Plaintiff
while he was housed at MVCI, and he denies that he personally
infringed on Plaintiff's religious rights or blocked his
access to legal representation. (Id. at ...