Jesus Jehovah v. Commonwealth of Virginia
PUBLISHED AUTHORED OPINION filed. Originating case number: 1:12-cv-00087-JCC-IDD. . [13-7529]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
JESUS EMMANUEL JEHOVAH, a/k/a Robert Gabriel Love, a/k/a
Gabriel Alexander Antonio,
Plaintiff - Appellant,
Defendants – Appellees,
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA; LORETTA K. KELLY, Warden, Sussex I
State Prison; ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, in their official, individual, and private
capacities, jointly and severally; EDDIE L. PEARSON, Warden;
KEISHA FOWLKES, Unit Manager; MS. EVANS, Records Officer; MS.
ANSAH, Corporal; ARMOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC.;
ANTHONY KING, Dr.; MESELE GEBREYES, Dr.; BENJAMIN ULEP, Dr.,
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern
district of Virginia, at Alexandria. James C. Cacheris, Senior
District Judge. (1:12-cv-00087-JCC-IDD)
May 12, 2015
Decided: July 9, 2015
Before TRAXLER, Chief Circuit Judge, GREGORY, and FLOYD, Circuit
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Reversed and remanded by published opinion. Judge Gregory wrote
the opinion, in which Chief Judge Traxler and Judge Floyd joined.
Lola Abbas Kingo, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER,
Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Trevor Stephen Cox, OFFICE OF
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for
Clay Greenberg, Student Counsel, Elizabeth Purcell, Student
Counsel, Appellate Litigation Program, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW
CENTER, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Mark R. Herring, Attorney
General of Virginia, Cynthia E. Hudson, Chief Deputy Attorney
General, Linda L. Bryant, Deputy Attorney General, Public Safety
& Enforcement, Richard C. Vorhis, Senior Assistant Attorney
General, Kate E. Dwyre, Assistant Attorney General, Stuart A.
Raphael, Solicitor General of Virginia, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.
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GREGORY, Circuit Judge:
court’s dismissal of his pro se claims against the Commonwealth of
Virginia and various employees and contractors of the Virginia
Department of Corrections (“VDOC”).
Jehovah claims that Appellees
violated his free exercise rights under the First Amendment and
communion, b) requiring him to work on Sabbath days, and c)
assigning him non-Christian cellmates.
Jehovah also alleges that
needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
The district court
dismissed sua sponte Jehovah’s Sabbath claims, cell assignment
claims, and deliberate indifference claim, and granted Appellees
summary judgment on the communion wine claim.
We reverse the
district court’s judgment in its entirety and remand for further
Jehovah is a VDOC inmate who was incarcerated at Sussex I
Prison (“SIP”) in Waverly, Virginia when he filed this lawsuit.
In his pro se complaint, he alleges four courses of action taken
by VDOC employees that he claims violated his rights under RLUIPA
and the First and Eighth Amendments.
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First, Jehovah claims that various policies have prevented
him from taking communion in the manner required by his religious
Jehovah’s religion 1 mandates that he take communion by
drinking red wine and consuming bread dipped in honey, olive oil,
sugar, cinnamon, and water.
While he was incarcerated at Nottoway
Correctional Center (“NCC”) from September 2009 to March 2010,
Jehovah was not permitted to take communion at all pursuant to a
memorandum prohibiting the practice for inmates in segregation.
In April 2010, Jehovah was transferred to SIP and placed in the
Jehovah requested permission from the warden
to take communion but did not receive a response, so he filed a
grievance. In January 2011, while Jehovah’s grievance was pending,
VDOC issued a new policy prohibiting all inmates from consuming
wine during communion.
Jehovah filed another grievance, which
VDOC revised its policy in January 2012 to allow
inmates to consume bread dipped in wine but not to drink wine.
Jehovah filed a third grievance, which was also denied.
Jehovah appears to adhere to his own particular brand of
Christianity, citing to a version of the Bible written by himself.
See J.A. 23 (Compl. n.1). Appellees do not challenge the sincerity
of his beliefs, and it is not within the courts’ purview to
“question the centrality of particular beliefs or practices to a
faith, or the validity of particular litigants’ interpretations of
those creeds.” Hernandez v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, 490 U.S.
680, 699 (1989).
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December 2012, VDOC changed its policy yet again to ban inmates
from consuming communion wine by any method. 2
Second, Jehovah asserts that he has been unable to secure a
job that will allow him to observe his Sabbaths.
prohibits him from working during the “Old Jewish Sabbath” (Friday
sundown to Saturday sundown) or the “New Christic Sabbath” (Sunday
at sunset to Monday at sunrise). 3
VDOC requires inmates to
activities -- for a certain number of hours per week in order to
See Va. Code § 53.1-32.1.
In February 2011 Jehovah was
assigned to a cleaning position, and his supervisor required him
to work seven days a week. Jehovah requested that VDOC accommodate
his observance of the Sabbaths, but VDOC refused, informing him
that his failure to work could lead to sanctions.
grievance, which VDOC denied.
He filed a
VDOC staff has not approved him for
any job for which he has applied since December 2011, including
jobs for which they had previously approved him. 4
This policy, like the January 2011 policy, allows clergy to
consume wine during services but permits inmates to drink only
wine substitutes such as grape juice.
Jehovah is required to devote these days to religious
observance and instruction.
Jehovah lost his cleaning job on May 17, 2011 after being
placed in segregation.
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Jehovah, “there are few prison jobs available to him at SIP and
other prisons which he can work and keep observing the Sabbaths.”
J.A. 27 (Compl. ¶ 32).
Third, Jehovah states that VDOC has housed him with “people
who are anti-Christian and unbelievers,” contrary to his religious
J.A. 28 (Compl. ¶ 34).
to be yoked to unbelievers.”
Jehovah “is directed by God not
J.A. 28 (Compl. ¶ 34).
At one point
Jehovah was housed with a “self-proclaimed Satanist and antiChristian,” even though VDOC knew of Jehovah’s religious views.
J.A. 28 (Compl. ¶ 35).
This inmate harassed Jehovah and subjected
him to “anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-God . . . rhetoric.”
J.A. 28 (Compl. ¶ 35).
After several requests to be reassigned,
Jehovah filed a grievance to which VDOC never responded.
July 2011, Jehovah has been assigned to live with “an atheist, an
proclaimed ‘Hell’s Angel’ biker, and a black anti-Christian from
an anti-white gang.”
J.A. 29 (Compl. n.18).
Other VDOC prisons
had been able to accommodate Jehovah’s requests to be housed only
Finally, Jehovah alleges that he has suffered various medical
ailments that VDOC medical staff have deliberately ignored.
2009 while incarcerated at NCC, Jehovah experienced, among other
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swallowing, coughing, nausea, lethargy, and unexplained weight
After medical staff at NCC “detected and acknowledged”
Jehovah’s symptoms but before they could diagnose them, Jehovah
was transferred to SIP on March 26, 2010.
J.A. 30 (Compl. ¶ 43).
Jehovah developed further symptoms after arriving at SIP, and after
testing negative for strep throat he was referred to Dr. King.
April 15, 2010, Dr. King examined Jehovah for the first time.
found holes in Jehovah’s tonsils but “did not acknowledge” any of
Jehovah’s other symptoms; he ordered a test for HIV, which was
negative, and then did not provide any further care.
additional treatment from Dr. King on June 17, 2010.
ignored all of Jehovah’s symptoms except his coughing, neck lesion,
and nasal drip. 5
Dr. King ordered a chest x-ray and urine and
the x-ray appeared normal but the urine and blood
tests revealed abnormalities consistent with infection.
maintains Dr. King ignored these results and provided no further
Jehovah saw Dr. King again on July 30, 2010, and
At this point in time, Jehovah’s alleged symptoms included:
“coughing with unusual whitish phlegm, [a] patch of hair loss and
neck lesion on His neck, fatigue, dizziness, night sweats, nasal
drip, weight loss, a lump under [h]is left ear, chest pains, chest
burning sensations, involuntary muscle spasms throughout [h]is
body, headaches, difficulty sleeping, swollen lymph nodes, and
other symptoms.” J.A. 30 (Compl. ¶ 46).
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Dr. King referred him to mental health staff, who ultimately
determined that he had no psychological problems.
Dr. King on August 30, 2010, Dr. King “disregarded most” of his
symptoms and treated him for gastroesophageal reflux disease with
Prilosec, which made many of Jehovah’s symptoms worse.
(Compl. ¶ 48).
Dr. King also referred Jehovah to mental health
staff again to be evaluated for bipolar disorder, of which staff
found no symptoms.
This pattern continued into 2012, with Dr.
King and other VDOC doctors allegedly acknowledging only some of
Jehovah’s symptoms, ignoring test results indicating infection,
and failing to improve Jehovah’s condition. 7
Additional symptoms included “tinnitus/ringing sensations
in [h]is hearing/ears, popping and bubbling sounds and sensations
and pains in [h]is ears and ear canals; episodic problems
dizziness; abdominal pains, abnormal stools, and rapidly passing
consumed meals; more difficulty swallowing and persistent
sensations of something being caught in [h]is throat, neck pain,
and sore and tender swollen nodes and tissues in his neck; more
chest pains and of greater intensity, and bones in [h]is sternum
area slightly, audibly, and painfully popping and moving out of
place; worsening muscle spasms, and spontaneous irregular and
painful heartbeats.” J.A. 31 (Compl. ¶ 47).
In 2013, Jehovah filed a notice with the district court
stating that an ultrasound electrocardiogram had revealed that for
two years he had been suffering from pulmonary hypertension with
right ventricle hypertrophy, an irreversible and often fatal
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compensatory and injunctive relief for these alleged violations of
September 27, 2012, the district court sua sponte dismissed all of
Jehovah’s claims except his communion claim pursuant to the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Appellees moved
to dismiss the remaining claim on December 21, 2012.
of their motion they submitted a declaration from VDOC Chief of
Corrections Operations A. David Robinson discussing the purposes
He then filed a motion to compel discovery and to hold
an evidentiary hearing, which the district court denied on May 17,
On August 20, 2013, the court granted Appellees’ summary
judgment motion and dismissed Jehovah’s RLUIPA and First Amendment
claims regarding the communion wine ban.
Jehovah timely appealed
the dismissal of all his claims.
On appeal, Jehovah argues that the district court erred in 1)
indifference claims under § 1915A, and 2) granting Appellees
summary judgment on his communion wine claim.
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We review de novo a § 1915A dismissal for failure to state a
Slade v. Hampton Roads Reg’l Jail, 407 F.3d 243, 248 (4th
Dismissal is proper only if the plaintiff has failed
to “present factual allegations that ‘state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.’”
178 (4th Cir. 2014).
Jackson v. Lightsey, 775 F.3d 170,
Similarly, we review de novo a grant of
Seabulk Offshore, Ltd. v. Am. Home Assur. Co.,
377 F.3d 408, 418 (4th Cir. 2004).
We must “view the facts and
inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.”
Summary judgment is inappropriate 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).
We must construe pro se complaints liberally, Jackson, 775
F.3d at 178, and “[l]iberal construction of the pleadings is
complaint raising civil rights issues,” Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d
736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009) (alteration in original).
The First Amendment’s protection of the right to exercise
religious beliefs extends to all citizens, including inmates.
O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1987).
v. Safley, the Supreme Court held that “when a prison regulation
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impinges on inmates’ constitutional rights, the regulation is
482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987).
The Turner Court laid out a
four-factor test for determining whether a prison regulation that
infringes on an inmate’s First Amendment rights is nonetheless
reasonable and therefore constitutionally valid.
First, is there
“a ‘valid, rational connection’ between the prison regulation and
the legitimate governmental interest put forward to justify it[?]”
Second, are there “alternative means of exercising the right
that remain open to prison inmates[?]”
Id. at 90.
Third, what is
“the impact accommodation of the asserted constitutional right
will have on guards and other inmates, and on the allocation of
prison resources generally[?]”
And finally, do there exist
“obvious, easy alternatives” suggesting that the regulation is “an
‘exaggerated response’ to prison concerns[?]”
framework, “[t]he burden . . . is not on the State to prove the
validity of prison regulations but on the prisoner to disprove
Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 132 (2003).
RLUIPA provides more stringent protection of prisoners’ free
exercise rights than does the First Amendment, applying “strict
scrutiny instead of reasonableness.”
174, 186 (4th Cir. 2006).
Lovelace v. Lee, 472 F.3d
It prohibits any government entity from
imposing a “substantial burden” on an inmate’s religious exercise
unless the burden “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental
that . . . interest.”
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42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a).
The inmate bears
the initial burden of showing a substantial burden on her religious
exercise, but the government must establish that the burden is the
government to show that it lacks other means of achieving its
desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise
of religion by the objecting party.”
Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct.
Jehovah’s RLUIPA claim regarding VDOC’s wine ban was improper for
First, Jehovah did not have the opportunity to brief
the issue of whether the wine ban substantially burdened his
The district court held that Jehovah had not
demonstrated a substantial burden.
But the court had previously
found, during the motion-to-dismiss stage, that “[p]rohibiting
plaintiff from taking wine with communion burdens the exercise of
Because of this, the parties did not
address the substantial burden prong of RLUIPA in their summary
A district court may resolve a motion for
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summary judgment on grounds not raised by a party, but it must
first provide notice and a reasonable time to respond.
Civ. P. 56(f); see also Coward v. Jabe, 532 F. App’x 328, 329 (4th
Cir. 2013) (unpublished) (“After giving notice and a reasonable
time to respond, the district court may grant a motion for summary
judgment on grounds not raised by a party.”).
Jehovah was not
afforded the requisite opportunity to demonstrate an issue of
material fact regarding the burden imposed by the wine ban.
Second, the parties agree that the record is insufficient to
support the conclusion that the wine ban is the least restrictive
means to address the government’s purported security interest. 8
The Robinson Affidavit, which Appellees proffered in support of
their summary judgment motion, does not even attempt to explain
why an absolute ban is the least restrictive measure available.
At the very least, the government must “acknowledge and give some
consideration to less restrictive alternatives.”
679 F.3d 197, 203 (4th Cir. 2012). 9
Couch v. Jabe,
Both Jehovah and Appellees
Jehovah also argues that a genuine issue of material fact
exists as to whether the government’s security interest is
compelling. Appellant’s Br. 38-40.
Jehovah has put forth a number of less restrictive
alternatives, including: 1) to apply the same security measures
used for medication to wine, 2) to allow Jehovah an accommodation
to drink wine, and 3) to exclude inmates who have been convicted
of infractions involving stealing or alcohol and inmates with a
history of alcoholism.
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agree that this burden has not yet been satisfied, and we agree.
Therefore, we reverse the district court’s summary dismissal of
Jehovah’s RLUIPA wine ban claim and remand for further proceedings.
Although we must subject Jehovah’s First Amendment claim to
a standard more deferential to VDOC, we find that a reasonable
jury could rule in Jehovah’s favor.
Under Turner, Jehovah bears
the burden of showing not only that his religious exercise was
“reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.”
U.S. at 89; see also Overton, 539 U.S. at 132.
The district court
based its First Amendment holding on its finding that Jehovah
As with the RLUIPA claim, the court failed to provide
notice that it would be considering this alternative ground for
However, we may affirm the district court’s
grant of summary judgment on any ground in the record.
Bell Atlantic Md., Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2002).
Therefore, we must determine whether a genuine issue of material
fact exists regarding whether the wine ban is unreasonable under
policy infringing on an inmate’s free exercise.
482 U.S. at 89.
The Robinson Affidavit attests that the communion wine policy is
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motivated by “safety and security concerns,” specifically intended
to avoid the mishandling of alcohol and to prevent inmates who
Promoting the inmates’ safety and health
is a legitimate concern.
See McRae v. Johnson, 261 F. App’x 554,
558 (4th Cir. 2008) (unpublished) (finding that “in the prison
setting, suppression of contraband . . . [and] maintaining the
health and safety of inmates and staff . . . constitute compelling
Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 722 (2005)).
It also seems clear that
the communion wine ban is, in the most general sense, logically
consumption is a rational approach to preventing alcohol misuse
What is unclear, however, is whether the other Turner
prongs – the availability of alternative means of exercising the
Holt, 135 S. Ct. at 862; see also O’Lone, 482
U.S. at 351-52 (analyzing an absolute ban on attending Jumu’ah and
addressing whether inmates “retain the ability to participate in
other Muslim ceremonies” (emphasis added)).
Although the ban at
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issue prohibits drinking wine at communion, it does not prevent
inmates from engaging in other aspects of communion, nor does it
affect other religious practices.
It is noteworthy, however, that
a previous version of the ban permitted inmates to consume wafers
dipped in wine. That version, like the current one, allowed clergy
to bring one fluid ounce of wine into the prison.
difference between the two policies is that inmates used to have
an alternative means of consuming communion wine in a controlled
participating in that practice.
Regarding the impact of an accommodation on other inmates,
reasonable jury could find that exempting Jehovah from the ban
would have a minimal impact on prison resources.
Wine is already
permitted on the premises, and religious services take place in a
Furthermore, a jury could find that the prison population would
not be endangered by a single inmate with no history of alcohol
abuse consuming a small amount of wine in this setting.
Finally, Jehovah has proposed several alternatives to the
1) to apply the same security measures used for
medication to wine, 2) to allow Jehovah an accommodation to drink
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wine, and 3) to apply the ban only to inmates who have been
convicted of infractions involving stealing or alcohol and inmates
with a history of alcoholism.
A reasonable jury could find that
at least one of these alternatives is so “obvious” and “easy” as
to suggest that the ban is “an exaggerated response.”
U.S. at 90.
Therefore, we reverse the district court’s summary
dismissal of Jehovah’s First Amendment wine communion claim.
The district court dismissed Jehovah’s Sabbath work claims
opportunities while incarcerated.”
As Jehovah rightly
points out, however, this is not the correct focus of the RLUIPA
jeopardy is Jehovah’s right to free exercise of his religious
Sabbath schedule is the alleged burden on that right.
To state a RLUIPA claim, Jehovah need only plead facts tending
to show a substantial burden on his exercise of sincerely held
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-2(b); see also Hartmann v.
Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1125 (9th Cir. 2013)
(“To survive a motion to dismiss on their RLUIPA claim, plaintiffs
must allege facts plausibly showing that the challenged policy and
the practices it engenders impose a substantial burden on the
exercise of their religious beliefs.”).
“[A] substantial burden
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on religious exercise occurs when a state or local government,
through act or omission, puts substantial pressure on an adherent
to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs.”
F.3d at 187 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).
Here, Jehovah has alleged that his religion requires him to
abstain from working during the “Old Jewish” and “New Christic”
He has pled that his cleaning job would not accommodate
his Sabbath observances, that his requests for job transfers were
denied, and that VDOC staff has not approved him for any job for
which he has applied since December 2011.
He has further alleged
that he will face sanctions and lose the opportunity to accrue
good conduct allowances and earned sentence credits if he fails to
work for 30-40 hours per week.
Appellees argue that Jehovah simply wishes more jobs would
accommodate his Sabbath schedule, and that therefore he is not
They rely on Jehovah’s assertion that
“there are few prison jobs available to him at SIP and other
prisons which he can work and keep observing the Sabbaths.”
J.A. 27 (Compl. ¶ 32) (emphasis added). However, viewing the facts
in the light most favorable to Jehovah, and applying the requisite
liberal construction to his pro se pleadings, Jehovah’s assertion
that there are few jobs available to him is not inconsistent with
his having applied for and been rejected from all of those jobs.
As Jehovah puts it, these other jobs are available to him “in
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theory,” but he has “plainly alleged that these jobs were made
Jehovah has alleged facts that support a plausible
The standard for stating a free exercise claim under the First
Amendment is more stringent.
Jehovah bears the burden not only of
demonstrating an infringement of his religious beliefs, but also
of showing that VDOC’s refusal to accommodate his Sabbath work
schedule is not rationally related to a legitimate penological
Turner, 482 U.S. at 89.
Still, Jehovah’s pro se civil
rights complaint meets the low bar of the motion-to-dismiss stage.
It is difficult to see what interest is served by making it
impossible for Jehovah to perform his required work hours entirely
during the week.
One reasonably could determine that granting
Drawing all reasonable inferences in Jehovah’s favor, he has set
forth a plausible claim for relief.
See Jackson, 775 F.3d at 178.
Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing Jehovah’s First
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The district court dismissed Jehovah’s housing claims because
it found that Jehovah “has no right to choose a cellmate based on
that person’s religious preferences or background.”
discussed above, however, the proper inquiry is whether and to
what extent VDOC burdened Jehovah’s right to exercise his sincerely
held religious beliefs by assigning him cellmates who did not share
his religious views.
Jehovah’s RLUIPA claim must survive the motion-to-dismiss
stage if he has pled facts tending to show that VDOC’s refusal to
accommodate his housing requests “put substantial pressure on
Lovelace, 472 F.3d at 187 (internal quotation marks and alterations
Jehovah has alleged that VDOC required him to “share a
unbelievers” in contravention of his religious beliefs.
(Compl. ¶ 34).
This allegation alone does not demonstrate that
being housed with non-Christians has pressured him to change his
Jehovah takes issue with the exposure to non-
Christians, not with any effect it has on his religious activities.
As Appellees note, the few jurisdictions to address this question
have found that being housed with an inmate who does not share the
plaintiff’s religious beliefs “does not inhibit or constrain [the
p]laintiff’s religious conduct.”
Steele v. Guilfoyle, 76 P.3d 99,
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102 (Okla. Civ. App. 2003); see also Rogers v. Hellenbrand, No.
03-C-230-C, 2004 WL 433976, at *6 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 4, 2004) (“There
is no indication in his briefs, evidence or proposed facts that
simply being exposed to the religious views of others hinders [the
way . . . .”), aff’d, 118 F. App’x 80 (7th Cir. 2004).
In addition to his general complaints of being assigned nonChristian cellmates, however, Jehovah asserts that he was housed
with a particular inmate who subjected Jehovah to “anti-Christian”
J.A. 28 (Compl. ¶ 35).
Jehovah states that he was
“burdened, mocked, and harassed on account of [h]is religious views
by being housed in a cell with” this inmate.
J.A. 28 (Compl.
Construing Jehovah’s pro se complaint liberally, it is
chilled by his cellmate’s religiously motivated harassment.
the motion-to-dismiss stage, this qualifies as a sufficient prima
facie showing under RLUIPA. 10
We therefore reverse the district
court’s dismissal of Jehovah’s RLUIPA cell assignment claim.
For his First Amendment cell assignment claim to survive,
Jehovah must allege sufficient facts showing that VDOC’s refusal
Since Jehovah has sufficiently pled that his housing
assignments substantially burdened his religious exercise, the
parties agree that remand is appropriate because the record does
not establish whether VDOC’s housing assignment policy is the least
restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest.
Pg: 22 of 24
to assign him a different cellmate was not reasonably related to
a legitimate penological interest. Turner, 482 U.S. at 89. Giving
his complaint its due liberal construction, we find that he has
“deliberately done . . . to harass and cause conflict and problems
J.A. 29 (Compl. ¶¶ 38, 41 & n.18).
asserts that his cell assignments have contravened a SIP housing
J.A. 29 (Compl. ¶ 41 n. 18).
He filed two
grievances regarding his issues with the inmate who allegedly
harassed him but never received a response. 11
J.A. 28 (Compl.
Given these allegations suggesting that VDOC was motivated
not by a legitimate penological concern but by animus, Jehovah has
successfully alleged facts supporting a plausible claim to relief.
Therefore, we reverse the district court’s dismissal of Jehovah’s
First Amendment cell assignment claim.
A claim of deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth
Amendment requires two showings, one objective and one subjective.
First, the inmate must prove that “the deprivation of a basic human
Jehovah’s residence with this inmate came to an end when
Jehovah was placed in disciplinary segregation.
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need was objectively sufficiently serious.”
De’Lonta v. Angelone,
330 F.3d 630, 634 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and
alterations omitted, emphasis in original). Second, she must prove
alterations omitted, emphasis in original).
conditions of confinement.”
Therefore, Jehovah must allege
a serious injury or a substantial risk of such.
facts in the light most favorable to Jehovah, they are sufficient
to support such a finding.
Jehovah’s alleged ailments fill two
pages of his complaint and include constant chest pain, chronic
headaches, and diminished hearing and eyesight. J.A. 37-38 (Compl.
Furthermore, Jehovah asserts that he has since been
hypertrophy, a serious and sometimes fatal condition.
Appellees do not appear to dispute that Jehovah’s innumerable
alleged symptoms constitute serious health issues.
focus on the subjective component of Jehovah’s claim.
must show that his doctors were deliberately indifferent, or
objectively serious condition, medical need, or risk of harm.”
De’Lonta, 330 F.3d at 634.
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Appellees argue that Jehovah cannot meet this bar because he
received extensive treatment from Dr. King and his other doctors.
But the fact that Jehovah received some treatment is consistent
with the allegation that his doctors ignored and failed to treat
many of his symptoms.
See id. at 635 (finding that the fact that
the plaintiff received some treatment did not mean she received
treatment for a particular ailment or that the treatment was
Jehovah has alleged that his doctors acknowledged
some symptoms but ignored most, disregarded abnormal test results,
and failed to treat any of his symptoms effectively.
words, he has pled facts that, if true, would establish that his
serious condition, medical need, or risk of harm.”
Id. at 634.
Dismissal of Jehovah’s claim is not appropriate unless he has
failed to present factual allegations supporting a plausible claim
See Jackson, 775 F.3d at 178.
That is not the case
Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing Jehovah’s
Eighth Amendment claim.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
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