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BOYD v. COUGHLIN

February 1, 1996

ULYSSES BOYD, Plaintiff, against THOMAS A. COUGHLIN, III, JAMES J. PLESCIA, CORRECTIONS OFFICER, ROBERT MITCHELL, SUPERINTENDENT OF EASTERN NEW YORK CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, SHERYL BUTLER, DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT FOR PROGRAM SERVICES, DEBRA R. JOY, SENIOR CORRECTIONS COUNSELOR, CAROL MILEWSKI, FAMILY REUNION PROGRAM COORDINATOR, MARILYN DEMOREST, IN CHARGE OF THE PRISON'S ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM, ROBERT POSNER, CORRECTIONS COUNSELOR, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 I. BACKGROUND

 This matter was referred to the Hon. Ralph W. Smith, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge, for a report and recommendation pursuant to a Standing Order dated August 2, 1985.

 The plaintiff, ULYSSES BOYD, filed a complaint alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights, under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. The defendants moved for summary judgment, and the Magistrate Judge has recommended dismissal of the plaintiff's complaint. This court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, but for different reasons.

 The plaintiff is an inmate in the Eastern Correctional Facility ("Eastern"), a New York State prison. The plaintiff was removed from participation in the Family Reunion Program ("FRP") *fn1" at Eastern because of his refusal to participate in the facility's alcohol and substance abuse program ("program"), which requires attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA") or Narcotics Anonymous ("NA") meetings, as required for prisoners with substance abuse histories before being permitted to participate in the FRP. The plaintiff alleges, in essence, two claims: (1) that the defendants, through the program, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by conditioning the plaintiff's participation in the FRP on his learning, knowing, believing, and/or working with the "Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous," an allegedly religious program, and by failing to provide a secular alternative treatment; and (2) that the defendants, through the program, violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by forcing the plaintiff, an alleged Muslim, to participate in a religious program that is offensive to and incompatible with his religious faith.

 The defendants have moved for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff's complaint. The defendants contend that (1) the program does not violate the Establishment Clause because the program meets the test set forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 29 L. Ed. 2d 745, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971); (2) the program does not violate the Free Exercise Clause because the plaintiff is not being compelled to affirm or disavow a tenet of his religious beliefs; (3) that even if the plaintiff's First Amendment rights are impinged, such impingement is constitutionally permissible; and (4) that the defendants are qualifiedly immune from suit.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Standard Of Review

 These motions were referred to Magistrate Judge Smith, Jr. for a report and recommendation and objections have been filed. Accordingly, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 this court must "make a de novo determination upon the record" of the motions before the court. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). After making a de novo determination, this court may "accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to the magistrate with instructions." Id.

 B. Standard For Summary Judgment

 The standard for granting a motion for summary judgment is well-settled. Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issues of material fact exist, and thus the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The movant bears the initial burden of showing the Court that, on the evidence before it, there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). The nonmovant must then "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(e). There must be more than a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Delaware & H. R. Co. v. Conrail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986)). "In considering a motion for summary judgment, the district court may rely on 'any material that would be admissible or usable at trial.'" Azrielli v. Cohen Law Offices, 21 F.3d 512, 516 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting, 10A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil s 2721 at 40 (2d ed. 1983). However, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not properly grant summary judgment where the issue turns on the credibility of witnesses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Azrielli, 21 F.3d at 517. Any assessments of credibility and all choices between available inferences are matters to be left for a jury, not matters to be decided by the Court on summary judgment. Id; See, e.g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), 1963 Advisory Committee Note; Agosto v. Immigration & Naturalization Service, 436 U.S. 748, 756, 56 L. Ed. 2d 677, 98 S. Ct. 2081 (1978); Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, 368 U.S. 464, 472-73, 7 L. Ed. 2d 458, 82 S. Ct. 486 (1962); Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F.2d 460, 465 (2d Cir. 1989); Centronics Financial Corp. v. El Conquistador Hotel Corp., 573 F.2d 779, 782 (2d Cir. 1978); 6 Moore's Federal Practice P 56.02 at 56-45 (2d ed. 1993). "Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgement proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849, 116 L. Ed. 2d 117, 112 S. Ct. 152 (1991). It is with the foregoing standards in mind that the Court turns to the issues presented.

 C. Alleged Violation Of The Establishment Clause

 The Establishment Clause germinated from "the lesson of history ... that in the hands of government what might begin as tolerant expression of religious views may end in a policy to indoctrinate and coerce." Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 591-92, 120 L. Ed. 2d 467, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992). However, courts must remain cognizant that not "every state action implicating religion is invalid if one or a few citizens find it offensive." Id, at 2661. Moreover, "[a] relentless and all-pervasive attempt to exclude religion from every aspect of public life could itself become inconsistent with the Constitution." Id.

 The general test for determining if a statute or practice violates the Establishment Clause is an examination of (1) whether it has a secular purpose; (2) whether it advances or inhibits religion in its principal or primary effect; and (3) whether it fosters excessive entanglement between the state and religion. See County of Allegheny v. Amer. Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573, 592, 106 L. Ed. 2d 472, 109 S. Ct. 3086 (1989) (citing, Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13, 29 L. Ed. 2d 745, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971)). However, this test is tempered somewhat by the context of this case - an inmate challenging a Department of Corrections directive. As stated by the Supreme Court, "when a prison regulation impinges on inmates' constitutional rights, the regulation is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89, 96 L. Ed. 2d 64, 107 S. Ct. 2254 (1987); see generally, Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 41 L. Ed. 2d 495, 94 S. Ct. 2800 (1974). Thus, the court first must determine if the required participation in the alcohol and substance abuse treatment program meets the Lemon test. If it meets the test, there ...


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