United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lawrence Gillen is a prisoner in the custody of the Tennessee
Department of Correction (TDOC) at the West Tennessee State
Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee. Gillen brought this
lawsuit to challenge an alleged violation of his religious
freedom at his prior place of incarceration, the South
Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Clifton, Tennessee.
Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, Gillen sued
TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker and two of his assistants, as
well as the warden, assistant warden, and chaplain of SCCF,
for denying him the opportunity to participate in the
observance of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting during
daylight hours that is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Wall v. Wade, 741 F.3d 492, 501 n.14 (4th Cir.
2014). Gillen brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violation of his religious freedoms under the First
Amendment of the United States Constitution; the Tennessee
Constitution Article I, Section 3; and the Religious Land Use
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Upon screening of the
complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
dismissed Gillen's claims against all defendants except
SCCF Chaplain Randall Runions. (Doc. No. 4, PageID# 24- 25.)
has now filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 25).
The motion is supported by Runions's declaration (Doc.
No. 25-1), a memorandum of law (Doc. No. 26), and a statement
of undisputed facts (Doc. No. 27). Gillen did not file a
timely response in opposition to Runions's motion or
respond to the statement of undisputed facts. On November 22,
2017, the undersigned issued an order to show cause why she
should not recommend that the action be dismissed for the
reasons stated in the motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No.
31.) Gillen responded to the order to show cause with his
declaration, supported by the affidavit of inmate Antonio
Bonds. (Doc. No. 32.) The Court construes Gillen's
declaration as an untimely response in opposition to the
motion for summary judgment. Runions has filed a reply. (Doc.
following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that
Runions's Motion for Summary Judgment be GRANTED and that
this case be DISMISSED.
statement of undisputed facts is supported by his declaration
(Doc. No. 25-1) and an excerpt from Gillen's
interrogatory responses (Doc. No. 25-2). Gillen did not
respond to the statement of undisputed facts and those facts
are therefore considered established for purposes of summary
judgment under this Court's local rules. M.D. Tenn. R.
56.01(g) (failure to respond). The undisputed facts as
asserted in Runions's statement are as follows:
At all times relevant to the allegations in the Complaint,
Plaintiff was incarcerated at South Central Correctional
Facility (SCCF). SCCF is operated by CoreCivic, a private
corporation [that] contracts with the Tennessee Department of
Correction (TDOC) to house inmates at SCCF. Before this
lawsuit was filed, Plaintiff transferred to West Tennessee
State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee.
Defendant Randall Runions was and is the Chaplain at SCCF. As
part of its contract with TDOC, SCCF is required to implement
and follow TDOC policies and procedures concerning religious
programs and accommodations for inmates. At SCCF, if an
inmate wishes to identify a religious preference, he must
submit a written request to Chaplain Runions. When an inmate
changes his religious preference, Chaplain Runions documents
the change in the Tennessee Offender Management Information
System (TOMIS), a computerized database for the TDOC.
Pursuant to TDOC policy, an inmate may change his religious
preference no more frequently than once a quarter.
Pursuant to TDOC policy, in addition to regular worship
services provided to various religious groups, SCCF also
provides extra worship services and group gatherings to
accent special observances, religious holidays, and feasts.
All special worship services and group gatherings for special
observances, religious holidays and feasts, must be conducted
in accordance with guidelines approved by the Assistant
Commissioner of Rehabilitative Services for TDOC.
Every year, SCCF provides Muslim inmates the opportunity to
participate in the Ramadan fast and in the Eid al-Fitr feast
at the conclusion of Ramadan. Every year prior to Ramadan,
the TDOC's Assistant Commissioner of Rehabilitative
Services issues a memorandum setting forth the guidelines
that must be followed by SCCF and other Tennessee facilities
in offering Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr feast to inmates.
Observance of Ramadan in 2016 lasted from early June to early
July. The [Eid al-Fitr] feast occurred on or about July 7,
2016. On April 13, 2016, the Assistant Commissioner issued
the guidelines for the 2016 Ramadan fast and the Eid Al-Fitr
feast. In implementing and following the TDOC guidelines,
SCCF only allows inmates who have identified their religious
preference on TOMIS as “Black Muslim, ”
“Mohammedan, ” “Islamic, ”
“Muslim-Nation of Islam, ” “Muslim-Sunni,
” or “Muslim-not NOI or Sunni” to
participate in Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr feast.
Every year, inmates are informed of the policy allowing only
inmates identified with an appropriate religious preference
on TOMIS to be allowed to participate in Ramadan. One of the
purposes of the policy allowing only inmates that have
identified an Islamic religious preference in participating
in Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr feast is to maintain the order
and security of the institution. By limiting participation,
the policy prevents non-Muslim inmates from attempting to
take advantage of participating in the Eid al-Fitr feast and
receiving extra food. If the feast were open to all inmates,
numerous inmates could attempt to receive the benefits of the
feast even though they do not identify as Muslim. The policy
further ensures the efficiency for SCCF in planning and
distributing meals to inmates who truly follow and practice
Islam and prevents the possibility of SCCF being forced to
prepare extra meals for inmates who do not truly practice
Islam but simply wish to take advantage of Islam's
religious observances. At all times relevant to this matter,
Defendant Runions adhered to the applicable policies and
procedures concerning religious programs and accommodations
Plaintiff had no religious preference identified on TOMIS in
June or July of 2016. Plaintiff does not follow “one
true faith.” Instead, he “stud[ies] all
religions.” In June of 2016, Plaintiff asked Defendant
Runions why he had not been allowed to participate in
Ramadan. Defendant Runions reminded Plaintiff that pursuant
to policy, only inmates identified as Muslim on TOMIS could
participate in Ramadan and the Eid-al-Fitr feast and
explained to Plaintiff that if he wished to participate, he
would need to submit the appropriate request to him changing
his religious preference. Defendant Runions never received a
request from Plaintiff seeking a change to his religious
As the Chaplain for SCCF, Defendant Runions is not a policy
or procedure maker for the TDOC or for SCCF. Defendant
Runions does not have the authority to act in contravention
to guidelines issued by the TDOC concerning allowing ...