United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of pro
se Plaintiff Sariko Antonio Jones's Complaint (Doc. No.
1), filed May 12, 2017. See 28 U.S.C. §§
is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina. He brings this
Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land
Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”),
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq. He names the North Carolina
Department of Public Safety (“NCDPS”), and Buford
Brown, identified as the Work Release Coordinator for NCDPS,
Complaint alleges that Defendant Brown required Plaintiff to
shave off his beard before Brown would send Plaintiff to a
work release job interview. Plaintiff objected on the grounds
that his Muslim faith required that he have a beard.
Plaintiff ultimately complied with Brown's directive so
that he could go to the interview. (Compl. 3, Doc. No. 1.)
to the Complaint, Plaintiff was offered a job by a work
release employer but had to wait for a work-related document
to come through. Defendant Brown, however, refused to send
Plaintiff to the job after the document came through.
According to Plaintiff, the employer called Brown to ask him
to send Plaintiff, but Brown sent other inmates to the job
site instead. (Compl. 3-4.)
alleges religious discrimination on the part of Defendant
Brown. He seeks punitive damages, as well as injunctive
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must
review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to
dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous, ”
“malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In its frivolity
review, the Court must determine whether the Complaint raises
an “indisputably meritless legal theory, ”
Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992), or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
“fantastic or delusional scenarios, ” Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989).
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons
provides, in part: “No government shall impose a
substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person
residing in or confined to an institution . . . even if the
burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless
the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on
that person-(1) is in furtherance of a compelling
governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means
of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a). “RLUIPA thus protects
institutionalized persons who are unable freely to attend to
their religious needs and are therefore dependent on the
government's permission and accommodation for exercise of
their religion.” Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S.
709, 721 (2005).
RLUIPA, a plaintiff must initially show that the challenged
policy substantially burdens his exercise of his religion.
See 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-2(b); Holt v.
Hobbs, 135 S.Ct. 853, 862 (2015). The statute defines
“religious exercise” as “any exercise of
religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a
system of religious belief.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-5(7)(A); Smith v. Ozmint, 578 F.3d 246, 251
(4th Cir. 2009). A “‘substantial burden' is
one that puts substantial pressure on an adherent to modify
his behavior and to violate his beliefs, [ ] or one that
forces a person to choose between following the precepts of
her religion and forfeiting governmental benefits, on the one
hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion on
the other hand.” Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d
174, 187 (4th Cir. 2006) (quotations, citation, and
Court finds that Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to
survive frivolity ...