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Young v. Chuvalas

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 14, 2018

AARON YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
RICK CHUVALAS, et al., Defendants.

          Jolson Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Aaron Young, a Muslim inmate, alleges that he was forced to attend a Christian prison ministry event at the Correctional Reception Center (CRC) in Orient, Ohio. Mr. Young now brings a claim against CRC prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. The matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Rick Chuvalas, George Smith, Karrie Hupka, Matt Church, and Nelson Emeaghara (ECF No. 28) as well as Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Reply Brief. (ECF No. 80). The Court heard oral argument from the parties on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (ECF No. 82). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Part II.A of Defendant's Reply Brief and DENIES Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Aaron Young is a follower of Islam. (ECF No. 72-4). During the events at issue in this case, Mr. Young was incarcerated at CRC. (Id.).

         CRC houses two types of incarcerated men: “reception inmates” who stay at the prison while they are processed and eventually moved to another institution and “cadre inmates” for whom CRC serves as their parent institution. (Id.; ECF No. 67-1). Typically, reception inmates and cadre inmates reside in different units, but Mr. Young participated in a program through which cadre inmates were assigned to reception units to aid reception inmates. (ECF No. 72-4). While housed in the reception unit, Mr. Young retained all of his cadre privileges. (Id.). Those privileges most saliently included the option to participate in recreation and programming with the cadre units and the option of spending time in other residential units rather than accompanying his reception unit to programming. (Id.).

         In July 2015, Bill Glass Ministries - a Christian organization with a stated mission of proselytizing to imprisoned non-Christians - held an event at CRC. (ECF No. 66 at 27-31). Mr. Young first learned of the Bill Glass event when a correction officer told him that morning that attendance would be mandatory. (ECF No. 72-4). Mr. Young, noting that he was Muslim and did not wish to attend a Christian event, sought to either remain in his reception unit during the event or to go to one of the neighboring reception units. (Id.). Although cadre inmates were typically permitted to pursue either of these options, Defendant George Smith-a Major at CRC-told Mr. Young that he “did not care” that Mr. Young was Muslim and that Warden Chuvalas had made the event mandatory. (Id.). Major Smith ordered Mr. Young to join the unit and threatened to send him to segregation if he failed to comply. (Id.).

         What ensued after the Bill Glass Ministries event began is sharply disputed.

         The parties do not agree as to the content of the event. Mr. Young recalls that “[t]he event felt like a church service” and that the speakers at the event told the inmates that if they “did not accept Jesus as [their] Lord and Savior” that they were “going to hell.” (Id.) Other inmates shared Mr. Young's sense that the event conveyed a religious message. (Clark Decl. (“Bill Glass people were on the microphone telling how God changed their lives, and encouraging everyone to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior”); O'Neil Decl. (“The Bill Glass event felt like a church gathering.”)). Defendant Deputy Warden Karrie Hupka was also at the event. (ECF No. 67-1). She recalled that representatives of Bill Glass Ministries “juggled and told jokes” before one speaker shared a story about himself, but she did not recall that the speaker mentioned God or Jesus or quoted the Bible. (Id.).

         The parties do not agree as to whether any of the inmates were permitted to sit on the bleachers away from the event. Mr. Young recalls that he was required to remain with the crowd during the duration of the event and that he neither sat on the bleachers nor was he ever given the option to do so. (ECF No. 72-4). Major Smith, by contrast, recalls that a group of inmates, including Mr. Young, began exercising during the event. (ECF No. 67-2). He explained that he ordered the inmates to return to the crowd and prohibited them from exercising or otherwise “caus[ing] disruptions” during the event, but that when the same group of inmates eventually wandered to the bleachers about 75 yards away from the event stage, he allowed them to remain there. (Id.).

         The parties do not agree as to what happened after the outdoor portion of the event concluded. Mr. Young declared that the inmates were not allowed to return to their cells and that they were required to remain while “Bill Glass members went around conducting prayers.” (ECF No. 72-4). But Deputy Warden Hupka believes that the outdoor portion of the event concluded with a member of Bill Glass Ministries asking the inmates if they “wanted to learn about Christianity” and that those inmates who wished to do so returned to the housing unit and voluntarily convened in a room separate from the inmates who were not interested in doing so. (ECF No. 67-1).

         Finally, it is disputed whether security concerns necessitated the mandatory attendance policy. Major Smith claims that safety required “mandatory mass movement” at recreation times and that any exceptions “must be arranged with the housing unit staff in advance.” (ECF No. 67-2). But Plaintiff notes that Warden Chuvalas did not make other events - such as a February 2015 event for Black History Month - mandatory for all inmates and that Defendants have “proffered no reason why a similar format could not have been provided for a visiting evangelical Christian group.” (ECF No. 72 at 6).

         Mr. Young filed a grievance with the Chief Inspector of Institutional Services, an Office within the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that monitors policy compliance at Ohio correctional facilities. In August 2015, Chief Inspector Roger Wilson issued a decision on Mr. Young's grievance, which read as follows:

In your complaint against Warden Chuvalas you allege you are a Muslim and was [sic] subjected to mandatory participation in the Bill Glass program which was a Christian event. Upon review of your complaint and applicable policies and speaking with the administration at CRC, I find that ORC policy 72-REG-01 states in part “no purely religious event shall be made mandatory.[”] I further find the event was mandatory for inmates. The administration at CRC is aware of the rule and will make appropriate accommodations to ensure policy compliance.
The grievance is granted.

(ECF No. 88-15).

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 4, 2016, Mr. Young filed a Second Amended Complaint against CRC Warden Rick Chuvalas, CRC Major George Smith, CRC Deputy Warden of Special Services Karrie Hupka, CRC Lieutenant Matt Church, and CRC Chaplain Nelson Emeaghara under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 31). Mr. Young alleges that the Defendants acted in contravention of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by violating the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. (Id.). Defendants now move for Summary Judgment on those claims, ...


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