Blake et al v. Missouri Department of Corrections et al
ORDER defendants' motion for summary judgment on Claim No. 11 is granted. Signed on 2/12/13 by Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. (Enss, Rhonda) A copy of this order was sent via regular mail to Kenneth L Blake and Sultan Lane at the CROSSROADS CORRECTIONAL CENTER, 1115 E. Pence Road, Cameron, MO 64429 on 2/12/2013. (Melvin, Greg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ST. JOSEPH DIVISION
KENNETH L. BLAKE, SULTAN LANE,
Case No. 10-CV-6063-SJ-FJG
Plaintiffs are prisoners at Crossroads Correctional Center (“CRCC”) in Cameron,
Missouri. Initially, plaintiffs sued the Missouri Department of Corrections and numerous
other correctional and CRCC employees for failing to accommodate their Muslim
religious beliefs. Plaintiffs’ claims were brought pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (First
Amendment Free Exercise Clause) and 42 U.S.C. §2000cc-1 (Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act)(“RLUIPA”). This discussion focuses only on the First
Amendment claim, as there is no individual liability under the RLUIPA1. Plaintiffs initially
asserted fourteen separate claims. On September 11, 2012, the Court granted
defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on all counts except Claim No. 11 and
dismissed all defendants except Scott Cooper. Plaintiffs Sidney Lanier and Lloyd Davis
were also dismissed as parties. Thus, the only claim which remains is that defendant
Cooper denied plaintiffs the “opportunity to break their daily fast with . . . dates prior to
Waff v. Reisch, No. Civ. 07-4166, 2010 WL 3730114, *11 (D.S.D. July 30,
2010)(“RLUIPA does not authorize individual capacity claims against prison officials.”);
Van Wyhe v. Reisch, 536 F.Supp.2d 1110, 1118(D.S.D.)(same), aff’d in part, rev’d in
part on other grounds, 581 F.3d 639 (8th Cir.2009).
observing Salat-ul-Maghrib [prayer at Sunset] for the entire month of Ramadan
In the September 11, 2012, Order, the Court found that plaintiffs Blake and Lane
had satisfied the substantial burden test established by Jihad v.Fabian, 680 F.Supp.2d
1021 (D.Minn.2010). The Court in Jihad stated, “[a] substantial burden exists if the
prison policy significantly inhibits or constrains religious conduct, meaningfully curtails
an inmate’s ability to express adherence to his faith, or denies an inmate reasonable
opportunities to engage in fundamental religious activities.” Id. at 1026 (quoting Van
Wyhe v. Reisch, 581 F.3d 639,656 (8th Cir.2009)). However, upon further review, the
Court has determined that plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the substantial burden test with
regard to their claim that they were not allowed to break their fast with dates.
In Maynard v. Hale, No. 3:11-CV-1233, 2012 WL 3401095, (M.D.Tenn. Aug. 14,
2012), the plaintiff alleged that the defendants had interfered with his ability to fast
during Ramadan, by failing to give him pre-dawn and evening meals. The Court stated
that even assuming plaintiff’s allegations were true and that the Chaplain may have
been responsible for plaintiff missing a pre-dawn meal on one day,“missing one meal
did not affect Plaintiff’s good health or his ability to practice his religion. Moreover, a
short-term and sporadic disruption of his Ramadan eating habits does not, under these
circumstances, allege a substantial burden on his religious freedom.” Id. at *4.
Similarly, in Crump v. Best, No. 10-13787, 2012 WL 1056806, *8 (E.D.Mich. Mar. 5,
2012), the Court found that having to eat cold or uncooked food on six occasions was
not “sufficiently serious so as to constitute a ‘substantial burden’ on Plaintiff’s ability to
observe the Ramadan holiday in violation of the RLUIPA.” In Griffith v. Hofmann, No.
2:05CV126, 2008 WL 4682690 (D.Vt. Oct. 21, 2008), the prisoner complained that
during Ramadan, his meals were smaller than usual and they were cold. The Court
however dismissed his claim, stating that he had made no showing that either portion
size or temperature was a requisite part of the Ramadan meal and that his religious
practice had not been ‘substantially burdened.’ Id. at *7. The Court noted, “[t]here may
be inconveniences [regarding denials of religiously required food] so trivial that they are
most properly ignored. In this respect, this area of the law is no different from many
others in which the time-honored maxim ‘de minimis non curat lex’ applies.” Id. (quoting
McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 203 n.6 (2d Cir.2004)).
Similarly, in the instant case, the plaintiffs are claiming that they were not allowed
to break their fast by eating dates before they attended the evening prayer service in the
chapel. In his deposition, plaintiff Blake testified that according to a August 3, 2009,
Memorandum discussing the procedures for Ramadan, the inmates were supposed to
be provided dates to eat in order to break their fast. However, Blake asserted that
defendant Cooper did not want to give the inmates the dates, saying it was an
interpretative issue. However, Blake admitted that the dates were placed in the food
bags, which were given to the inmates as they left the chapel. (Doc. # 133-1, pp. 8889). Similarly, plaintiff Lane stated in his Declaration:
As stated in Claim # 11 of the second amended complaint, Correctional
officer Scott Cooper refused to provide me with the dates for daily fastbreak during Ramadan 2009. Correctional officer Scott Cooper had the
dates placed in the Ramadan 2009 brown bag meals. Per the August 3,
2009, memorandum of Darin Morgan, Correctional officer Scott Cooper
did not pass out the Ramadan 2009 brown bag meals until after
completion of Salat-ul-Maghrib (Prayer at Sunset) and upon release of the
Ramadan 2009 participants from the chapel. However, in accordance with
Islam, I am required to break my fast with dates prior to observance of
Salat-ul-Maghrib. Because the dates were placed in the Ramadan 2009
brown bag meals, outside my access, I had to break my fast with water,
rather than the dates, contrary to the August 3, 2009, memorandum of
(Doc. 139-1, p. 13). The Memorandum cited by plaintiff Lane does state that inmates
will be provided dates or other approved fruit for daily fast breaking. The Memorandum
further states that “[s]ack lunches are to be delivered to the Chapel from food service
within appropriate containers, one for the sack lunch with CRD contents and the other
for remaining additional sacks.” However, the memorandum specifically states that
“Food consumption IS NOT to occur within the Chapel.” (Doc. # 133-18, pp. 1-2).
Additionally, there was an earlier memorandum dated June 3, 2009, which stated that
“[e]ach institution will determine the place where the fast will be broken.” (Document
133-17, p.2). Thus, it is not clear that defendant Cooper violated any institutional
directive by having the inmates wait until after they left the chapel before passing out
the sack lunches, which contained the dates, because the Memorandum clearly
indicated that food was not to be consumed within the chapel and also because of the
earlier memorandum which gave institutions discretion as to where the fast was to be
However, even if it is assumed that Cooper violated the directives in the
Memorandum, the Court finds that the violation was de minimis and did not place a
“substantial burden” on plaintiffs’ ability to practice their religion. Plaintiff Lane even
admitted in his Declaration that he was able to break his fast with water. Plaintiffs made
have preferred to break their fast by eating dates, before their evening prayer service,
but they have not shown that they were completely prevented from breaking their fast.
As such, the Court finds that the denial of the dates was a de minimis violation and did
not constitute a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ free exercise of their religion.
Accordingly, the Court hereby GRANTS defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on
Claim No. 11.
Date: February 12, 2013
Kansas City, Missouri
S/ FERNANDO J. GAITAN, JR.
Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr.
Chief United States District Judge
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