United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court following additional briefing
by the parties on the issue of whether Defendants are
entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for
prospective injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use
and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”),
codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. For the following
reasons, the Court finds that Defendant is entitled to
summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claim for prospective,
injunctive relief under the RLUIPA. Because this disposes of
all remaining issues in this case, the case shall therefore
Plaintiff Titus Bates, a North Carolina state inmate
currently incarcerated at Carteret Correctional Center in
Newport, North Carolina, filed this action on June 22, 2017,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of
his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), codified as 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000cc et seq. Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint
that, while he was confined at Foothills Correctional
Institution in Morganton, North Carolina, Defendant Betty
Brown, as the North Carolina Department of Public Safety
(“NCDPS”) Director of Chaplaincy Services I,
violated his religious rights under the RLUIPA by refusing to
allow him to be excluded from prison work duties on Fridays
in observance of his membership in the Moorish Science Temple
of America (“MSTA”).
filed a summary judgment motion on November 2, 2018. (Doc.
No. 30). On November 5, 2018, 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. 33). Plaintiff responded to the summary judgment
motion on November 13, 2018, Defendant filed a Reply on
November 20, 2018, and Plaintiff filed a Surreply on December
11, 2018. (Doc. Nos. 34, 35, 36).
January 10, 2019, this Court granted summary judgment to
Defendant on Plaintiff's damages claim under the RLUIPA,
but the Court ordered Defendant to provide further briefing
on Plaintiff's claim for prospective injunctive relief.
(Doc. No. 37). On February 13, 2019, Defendant filed a
supplemental memorandum, arguing that Plaintiff's claim
for prospective injunctive relief is moot because he has been
transferred away from Foothills. (Doc. No. 42).
Defendant's summary judgment materials on the issue of
prospective injunctive relief include an affidavit of David
Lambert, with attached Exhibit A, an affidavit of Larry
Williamson, and an affidavit of Tina Cameron, with attached
exhibits, and Defendant also relies on the evidence submitted
supporting the original summary judgment motion. (Doc. Nos.
43-1, 43-2, 43-3).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is genuine “if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit
under governing law. Id.
movant has the “initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal citations
this initial burden is met, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party. The nonmoving party “must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. at 322 n.3. The nonmoving party
may not rely upon mere allegations or denials of allegations
in his pleadings to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Id. at 324. The nonmoving party must present
sufficient evidence from which “a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Sylvia Dev.
Corp. v. Calvert County, Md., 48 F.3d 810, 818 (4th Cir.
ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must view the
evidence and any inferences from the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
255. “‘Where the record taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'”
Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 2677 (2009)
(quoting Matsushita v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 587 (1986)).
noted, Plaintiff alleges a claim pursuant to the RLUIPA,
which 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).
the RLUIPA, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of showing
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 ...