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ALEXANDER v. SCHENK

September 29, 2000

TROY ALEXANDER, PLAINTIFF,
V.
GALYN SCHENK, HEAD COUNSELOR OF ASAT PROGRAM AT CAYUGA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MR. VOLVO, SUPERINTENDENT OF PROGRAMS AT CAYUGA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MRS. STEVENSON; GLENN S. GOURD, JOE MACY, BARBIARX, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART and Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

On March, 25, 1997, Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that various officials at the Cayuga Correctional Facility ("Cayuga") violated his First and Thirteenth Amendment rights by compelling him to participate in the facility's Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program ("ASAT Program"). Plaintiff was incarcerated at Cayuga in August of 1996. Because he had previously violated rules against the possession/and or use of drugs while incarcerated at Marcy Correctional Facility Defendant David Babiarz, referred to in the complaint as "Barbiarx," interviewed him and recommended that he join ASAT.

Plaintiff disagreed with Babiarz's recommendation because he thought that completion of the program would not entitle to him an "Earned Eligibility Certificate." Babiarz referred Plaintiff to an ASAT counselor who asked him to sign an "ASAT Contract" so he could enroll in the Program. Plaintiff refused to sign the contract and never consented to enroll in the Program. Nevertheless, on or about September 23, 1996, Plaintiff was moved into the ASAT dormitory and defendant Stevenson adjusted his programming assignment so he could participate in ASAT.

During the course of his treatment at ASAT, Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly requested to leave the program. On January 27, 1997, Defendant Schenk wrote a misbehavior report charging Plaintiff with violating three prison regulations for sleeping through an ASAT required "group session." On January 29, 1997, prison officials held a hearing to determine Plaintiff's guilt on the above charges. Plaintiff stated that he was excused from participating in ASAT group sessions because their religious nature conflicted with his agnostic beliefs.*fn1 The prison official presiding over the hearing determined that Plaintiff was guilty of violating two prison regulations for sleeping during the group sessions. He ordered him to attend all future group sessions and suspended Plaintiff's recreational rights for fifteen days.

That day, Plaintiff filed an internal grievance alleging that he was agnostic and that ASAT's religious nature violated his First Amendment rights. His complaint alleges this same violation. It also claims that while enrolled in ASAT he was forced to work with no compensation in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

The standard for summary judgment is well-established. Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is genuinely disputed only if, based on that fact, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, all evidence must be viewed and all inferences must be drawn in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See City of Yonkers v. Otis Elevator Co., 844 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir. 1988).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Upon the movant's satisfaction of that burden, the onus then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), "but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial." First Nat'l Bank of Az. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968).

B. Plaintiff's First Amendment Claim

The First Amendment's Establishment Clause, as the Fourteenth Amendment makes applicable to states, establishes that, at a minimum, "government may not coerce anyone to participate in religion or its exercise." Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 587, 112 S.Ct. 2649, 120 L.Ed.2d 467 (1992); Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 678, 104 S.Ct. 1355, 79 L.Ed.2d 604 (1984); Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 15-16, 67 S.Ct. 504, 91 L.Ed. 711 (1947). In cases not involving coercion courts are required to examine whether the practice (1) has a secular purpose; (2) whether it advances or inhibits religion in its principal or primary effect; and (3) whether it fosters excessive entanglement with religion. See Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-613, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 29 L.Ed.2d 745 (1971); County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573, 592, 109 S.Ct. 3086, 106 L.Ed.2d 472 (1989). Additionally, because Plaintiff is a prisoner challenging a correctional facility regulation and order, this Court must uphold the actions here if they are "reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987). Application of these standards to the instant case, reveals that this Court must make a threshold determination of whether Plaintiff was coerced into attending ASAT. See, e.g., Warner, 115 F.3d at 1076 n. 8 (2d Cir. 1996) (holding that because the Plaintiff was sent to Alcoholics Anonymous as a condition of his probation, without offering a choice of other providers, he was "plainly" coerced in violation of the Establishment Clause).

In the instant case, Plaintiff objected to attending ASAT meetings at his initial interview and constantly complained about his enrollment in the program. He refused to sign an enrollment contract and raised the issue of the program's religious aspects with prison officials at both the January administrative hearing and subsequent grievance filing. Even more importantly, Defendants ordered him to return to "group" sessions knowing that Plaintiff objected to them on religious grounds. In light of these undisputed ...


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