United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
O'Grady, United States District Judge
Gentry, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a
complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
("RLUIPA"), alleging that his rights were violated
when officers at the Nottoway Correctional Center forcibly
shaved his beard. Dkt. No. 1. Defendants have filed a Second
Motion for Summary Judgment, along with a supporting brief,
exhibits, and the notice required by Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975) and Local Rule
7K. Dkt. Nos. 27-29. Plaintiff filed an unverified general
objection to defendants' motion, however, his complaint
is verified. Dkt. Nos. 1, 35. For the following
reasons, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be
granted and this matter will be dismissed.
record on summary judgment establishes the following. On July
7, 2016, plaintiff was transferred into Virginia Department
of Corrections ("VDOC") custody and the intake
process took place at Nottoway Correctional Center
("NCC"). Defs.' MSJ, Bateman Aff. ¶ 4. At
the time of intake into VDOC, every inmate is given an order
to comply with VDOC Operating Procedure ("VDOC OP")
864.1 Id. Robinson Aff. ¶ 11.
Prior to December 2016, this meant that all inmates were
treated alike, regardless of their religious affiliation or
personal preference, and reasonable force was authorized to
the extent necessary to bring inmates into compliance with
VDOC OP 864.1. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 20; Defs.' MSJ,
Robinson Aff. ¶ 12. As of December 28, 2016, inmates who
refuse to comply with the grooming policy for religious
reasons are treated like any other inmate who refuses to
comply with the grooming policy. Defs.' MSJ, Robinson
Aff. ¶ 13, Enc. C. In other words, force is no longer
used to bring them into compliance. Id.
the intake process on July 7, 2016, plaintiff refused to have
his beard shaved for religious reasons. Compl. ¶ 17.
VDOC employees tried to reason with plaintiff, but he told
them that they were trying to humiliate him and that he
wanted to be placed in segregation instead. Id.
¶¶ 18, 20-23. Specifically, plaintiff states he
could have been placed in the VHU. Id. ¶ 79.
Instead, plaintiff was told that he would not be placed in
segregation without first complying with VDOC OP 864.1.
Id. ¶¶ 18, 20.
became evident that plaintiff was not going to change his
mind, Major Bateman authorized the use of the minimum amount
of force necessary to bring plaintiff into compliance with
VDOC OP 864.1. Id. ¶¶ 24-25; Defs.'
MSJ, Bateman Aff.¶ 6. Sergeant Swann entered plaintiffs
cell with a "[taser] shield" which he used to push
plaintiff to the ground, although he never activated the
shield's electric current. Compl. ¶ 26-27; Defs.'
MSJ, Bateman Aff. End. A. Once on the ground, Sergeant Swann
twisted plaintiffs right hand behind plaintiffs back,
Lieutenant Williams twisted plaintiffs left arm behind
plaintiffs back, and they handcuffed plaintiff and applied
leg irons. Compl. ¶¶ 29-31. Plaintiff peacefully
resisted. Id. ¶80. Plaintiff was escorted 25
feet to the barber chair where Sergeant Swann placed his knee
on plaintiffs handcuffs with his full body weight and held
plaintiffs head. Id. ¶ 34; Defs.' MSJ,
Bateman Aff. ¶ 6. Plaintiffs legs were past the foot
rest of the chair and his arms were behind the back of the
chair. Compl. ¶ 33. Plaintiff continued to resist staff.
Defs.' MSJ, Bateman Aff. ¶ 6, End. A. While Sergeant
Swann forced plaintiffs head into different positions,
Sergeant Williams shaved plaintiffs beard to
1/2 inch length. Compl. ¶¶
35-37; Defs.' MSJ, Bateman Aff. ¶ 6, End. A. Medical
staff then arrived to evaluate plaintiff, however, he was not
able to answer at first because Sergeant Swann had his knee
on plaintiffs cuffed wrists. Compl. ¶ 39. Once Sergeant
Swann moved, plaintiff stated he did not think he was
injured, however, the medical staff noted an abrasion to his
left wrist due to his resisting staff, and a
1/2 inch laceration on his right
forearm. Id. ¶ 40; Defs.' MSJ, Bateman Aff.
¶ 7, Enc. A. Plaintiffs picture was taken, and then he
was escorted to segregation, which was unnecessary because
his beard had been trimmed, and he was uncuffed. Compl.
¶¶ 42, 47, 76.
June 14, 2017, other inmates housed in the VHU, such as those
from the Virgin Islands, were not forced to cut their hair
upon intake into VDOC. Id. ¶ 55. In fact, of
the thirty-eight inmates in the VHU as of June 14, 2017, only
the four other inmates who refused to cut their hair for
religious reasons were forced to comply with VDOC OP
864.1. Id. ¶¶ 56, 69. There is
no reason for male inmates to have their hair length
restricted to one inch and their beard length restricted to
1/2 inch because (1) inmates' hair
is searched no matter its length; (2) male inmates can grow
mustaches longer than 1/2 inch in
length; and (3) female inmates are allowed to have hair
longer than one inch. Id. § 71-74.
court shall grant summary judgment 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). The moving party bears the burden of
proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. See
Celotex Corp. v. Citrate, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)
(moving party bears the burden of persuasion on all relevant
issues). To meet that burden, the moving party must
demonstrate that no genuine issues of material fact are
present for resolution. Id. at 322. Once a moving
party has met its burden to show that it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law, the burden then shifts to the
non-moving party to point out the specific facts which create
disputed factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a district court
should consider the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences from
those facts in favor of that party. United States v.
Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Those facts
which the moving party bears the burden of proving are facts
which are material. "[T]he substantive law will identify
which facts are material. Only disputes over facts which
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact
is genuine when, "the evidence... create[s] [a] fair
doubt; wholly speculative assertions will not suffice."
Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d
355, 364 (4th Cir. 1985). Thus, summary judgment is
appropriate only where no material facts are genuinely
disputed, and the evidence as a whole could not lead a
rational fact finder to rule for the non-moving party.
Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
First Amendment and RLUIPA Claims
Plaintiff first claims that defendants violated his rights
under the First Amendment and RLUIPA when they forced him to
shave his beard because plaintiff grew his beard for
religious reasons. Thus, plaintiff claims, defendants did not
allow him to practice his religion and they did not use the
least restrictive means to further a compelling government
Fourth Circuit has held that plaintiffs cannot recover
damages under RLUIPA against defendants when sued in their
official capacity. Madison v. Virginia, 474 F.3d 118
(4th Cir. 2006) (Madison 10. The Fourth Circuit also
recently held that "when invoked as a spending clause
statute, RLUIPA does not authorize a claim for money damages
against an official sued in her individual capacity."
Rendelman v. Rouse, 569 F.3d 182, 184.
passed RLUIPA "by relying on its Spending and Commerce
Clause powers ...." Madison v. Riter, 355 F.3d
310, 315 (4th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff does not specify in his
complaint whether he invokes RLUIPA under the Spending Clause
or the Commerce Clause; however, it is clear that "[t]he
Virginia Department of Corrections is a state agency that
receives federal financial assistance." Madison
II, 474 F.3d at 124. Accordingly, it can reasonably be
inferred that plaintiff invoked RLUIPA pursuant to the
Spending Clause. See Rendelman, 569 F.3d 182; see
also Stewart v. Beach, 701 F.3d 1322 (10th Cir.
2012) (analyzing the constitutionality of RLUIPA as an
exercise of the Spending Clause as related to a
prisoner's claim); Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d
868 (7th Cir. 2009) (same); Van Wvhe v. Reisch, 581
F.3d 639 (8th Cir. 2009) (same); Bennine v. Georgia,
391 F.3d 1299 (11th Cir. 2004) (same). Therefore, plaintiff
is not entitled to recover monetary damages from defendants
in either their individual or official capacities.
only injunctive relief plaintiff seeks in his complaint is
"a preliminary and permanent injunction ordering VDOC to
send [plaintiff) to where [he] can practice [his] religion
fully and grow [his] beard." Specifically, plaintiff
asks to be transferred to "Delaware State Prisons, North
Carolina State Prisons, or [to federal custody]."
Because plaintiff is in VDOC custody, it is reasonable to
infer that he is in custody pursuant to a Virginia state
court conviction and cannot be transferred out of VDOC
custody as requested. In addition, plaintiff is currently in
a facility where is he able to fully grow his beard, making
his request for injunctive relief moot. For the foregoing
reasons, plaintiffs RLUIPA claim will be dismissed.
First Amendment - Free Exercise
whether a policy violates an individual's right to freely
exercise his religion requires determining whether the
regulation imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of
religion, and, if so, whether that burden is justified by a
compelling state interest. Hernandez v. Comm'r.,
490 U.S. 680, 699 (1989). The question of whether a plaintiff
sincerely holds a "religious" belief does not
"turn upon a judicial perception of the particular
belief or practice in question; religious beliefs need not be
acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others
in order to merit First Amendment protection."
Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Emp't Sec. Div.,
450 U.S. 707, 715 (1981). A plaintiff must, however, make a
threshold showing that he sincerely holds his religious
belief. Cf Id. at 717 (finding that the "narrow
function" of a court reviewing a Free Exercise challenge
is to determine whether the plaintiff took a specific action
because of his religious beliefs). The question of whether a
regulation imposes a "substantial burden" has been
framed in a number of ways, including "putting
substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior
and violate his beliefs," Thomas, 450 U.S. at
717-18, and forcing an individual to "choose between
following the precepts of [his] religion and forfeiting
benefit, on the one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts
of [his] religion... on the other," Sherbert v.
Vemer, 374 U.S. 398, 404 (1963).
prisoners do not maintain the same degree of First Amendment
rights as the general public. Specifically, "[a] prison
inmate retains those First Amendment rights that are not
inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the
legitimate penological objectives of the corrections
system." Pell v. Procunier,417 U.S. 817, 822
(1974). Accordingly, an inmate does not have the same
protection from restrictions on his rights to practice his
religion as do members of the general public; thus, prison
officials may enact restrictions on an inmate's ability
to practice his religion, as long as the official can show
that the restrictions are reasonably related to legitimate
penological interests. See, e.g., O'Lone v. Estate of