405 U.S. 319 (1972), 71-5552, Cruz v. Beto

Docket NºNo. 71-5552
Citation405 U.S. 319, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263
Party NameCruz v. Beto
Case DateMarch 20, 1972
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 319

405 U.S. 319 (1972)

92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263

Cruz

v.

Beto

No. 71-5552

United States Supreme Court

March 20, 1972

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES

COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner prisoner, an alleged Buddhist, complained that he was not allowed to use the prison chapel, that he was prohibited from writing to his religious advisor, and that he was placed in solitary confinement for sharing his religious material with other prisoners. The Federal District Court denied relief without a hearing or findings, holding the complaint to be in an area that should be left "to the sound discretion of prison administration." The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: On the basis of the allegations, Texas has discriminated against petitioner by denying him a reasonable opportunity to pursue his Buddhist faith comparable to that offered other prisoners adhering to conventional religious precepts, and the cause is remanded for a hearing and appropriate findings.

Certiorari granted; 445 F.2d 801, vacated and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

The complaint, alleging a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, states that Cruz is a Buddhist, who is in a Texas prison. While prisoners who are members of other religious sects are allowed to use the prison chapel, Cruz is not. He shared his Buddhist religious material with other prisoners and, according to the allegations, in retaliation was placed in solitary confinement on a diet of bread and water for two weeks, without access to newspapers, magazines, or other sources of news. He also alleged that he was prohibited from corresponding with his religious advisor in the Buddhist sect. Those in the isolation unit spend 22 hours a day in total idleness. Again, according to the allegations, Texas encourages inmates to participate in other religious programs, providing at state expense chaplains of the Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faiths; providing also at state expense copies of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, and conducting

Page 320

weekly Sunday school classes and religious services. According to the allegations, points of good merit are given prisoners as a reward for attending orthodox religious services, those points enhancing a prisoner's eligibility for desirable job assignments and early parole consideration.1 Respondent answered, denying the allegations and moving to dismiss.

Page 321

The Federal District Court denied relief without a hearing or any findings, saying the complaint was in an area that should be left "to the sound discretion of prison administration." It went on to say, "Valid disciplinary and security reasons not known to this court may prevent the `equality' of exercise of religious practices in prison." The Court of Appeals affirmed. 445 F.2d 801.

Federal courts sit not to supervise prisons, but to enforce the constitutional rights of all "persons," including prisoners. We are not unmindful that prison officials must be accorded latitude in the administration of prison affairs, and that prisoners necessarily are subject to appropriate rules and regulations. But persons in prison, like other individuals, have the right to petition the Government for redress of grievances which, of course, includes "access of prisoners to the courts for the purpose of presenting their complaints." Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 485; Ex parte Hull, 312 U.S. 546, 549. See also Younger v. Gilmore, 404 U.S. 15, aff'g Gilmore v. Lynch, 319 F.Supp. 105 (ND Cal.). Moreover, racial segregation, which is unconstitutional outside prisons, is unconstitutional within prisons, save for "the necessities of prison security and discipline." Lee v. Washington, 390 U.S. 333, 334. Even more closely in point is Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546, where we reversed a

Page 322

dismissal of a complaint brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We said: "Taking as true the allegations of the complaint, as they must be on a motion to dismiss, the complaint stated a cause of action." Ibid. The allegation made by that petitioner was that solely because of his religious beliefs he was denied permission to purchase certain religious publications and denied other privileges enjoyed by other prisoners.

We said in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 446, that

a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.

If Cruz was a Buddhist and if he was denied a reasonable opportunity of pursuing his faith comparable to the opportunity afforded fellow prisoners who adhere to conventional religious precepts, then there was palpable discrimination by the State against the Buddhist religion, established 600 B. C., long before the Christian era.2 The First Amendment, applicable to the States by reason of the Fourteenth Amendment, [92 S.Ct. 1082] Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 492-493, prohibits government from making a law "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. If the allegations of this complaint are assumed to be true, as they must be on the motion to dismiss, Texas has violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis

Page 323

is granted. The petition for certiorari is granted, the judgment is vacated, and the cause remanded for a hearing and appropriate findings.

So ordered.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN concurs in the result.

BURGER, J., concurring

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, concurring in the result.

I concur in the result reached even though the allegations of the complaint are on the borderline necessary to compel an evidentiary hearing. Some of the claims alleged are frivolous; others do not present justiciable issues. There cannot possibly be any constitutional or legal requirement that the government provide materials for every religion and sect practiced in this diverse country. At most, Buddhist materials cannot be denied to prisoners if someone offers to supply them.

REHNQUIST, J., dissenting

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, dissenting.

Unlike the Court, I am not persuaded that petitioner's complaint states a claim under the First Amendment, or that, if the opinion of the Court of Appeals is vacated, the trial court must necessarily conduct a trial upon the complaint.1

Under the First Amendment, of course, Texas may neither "establish a religion" nor may it "impair the free exercise" thereof. Petitioner alleges that voluntary services are made available at prison facilities so that Protestants, Catholics, and Jews may attend church services of their choice. None of our prior holdings

Page 324

indicates that such a program on the part of prison officials amounts to the establishment of a religion.

Petitioner is a prisoner serving 15 years for robbery in a Texas penitentiary. He is understandably not as free to practice his religion as if he were outside the prison walls. But there is no intimation in his pleadings that he is being punished for his religious views, as was the case in Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546 (1964), where a prisoner was denied the receipt of mail about his religion. Cooper presented no question of interference with prison administration of the type that would be involved here in retaining chaplains, scheduling the use of prison facilities, and timing the activities of various prisoners.

None of our holdings under the First Amendment requires that, in addition to being allowed freedom of religious belief, prisoners be allowed freely to evangelize their views among other prisoners. There is no indication in petitioner's complaint that the prison officials have dealt more strictly with his efforts to convert other convicts to Buddhism than with efforts of communicants of other faiths to make similar conversions.

By reason of his status, petitioner is obviously limited in the extent to which he may practice his religion. He is assuredly not free to attend the church of his choice outside the prison walls. But the fact that the Texas prison system offers no Buddhist services at this particular prison does not, under the circumstances pleaded in his complaint, demonstrate that his religious freedom is being impaired. Presumably prison officials are not obligated to provide facilities for any particular denominational services within a prison, although, once they [92 S.Ct. 1083] undertake to provide them for some, they must make only such reasonable distinctions as may survive analysis under the Equal Protection Clause.

Page 325

What petitioner's basic claim amounts to is that, because prison facilities are provided for denominational services for religions with more numerous followers, the failure to provide prison facilities for Buddhist services amounts to a denial of the equal protection of the laws. There is no indication from petitioner's complaint how many practicing Buddhists there are in the particular prison facility in which he is incarcerated, nor is there any indication of the demand upon available facilities for other prisoner activities. Neither the decisions of this Court after full argument nor those summarily re-versing the dismissal of a prisoner's civil rights complaint2 have ever given full consideration to the proper balance to be struck between prisoners' rights and the extensive administrative discretion that must rest with correction officials. I would apply the rule of deference to administrative discretion that has been overwhelmingly accepted in the courts of appeals.3 Failing that, I would at least hear argument as to what rule should govern.

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3347 practice notes
  • 159 B.R. 385 (S.D.N.Y. 1993), 92 civ. 1778 , Luedke v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • August 20, 1993
    ...construe them in favor of the pleader. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 On this Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Committee and its members challenge the sufficiency of the alleg......
  • 178 B.R. 956 (D.Del. 1994), A92-84, In re Buckhead America Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of Delaware
    • January 28, 1994
    ...for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081-82, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972) (per curiam ). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable in......
  • 213 F.R.D. 308 (S.D.Iowa 2003), 4-02-CV-90500, Martino-Catt v. E.I. duPont de Nemours and Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • February 20, 2003
    ...a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972); In re Navarre Corp. Sec. Litig., 299 F.3d 735, 741 (8th Cir.2002). This deferential standard of review......
  • 254 B.R. 104 (Bkrtcy.D.N.J. 1999), 97-22977, In re Halpert & Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Third Circuit
    • February 25, 1999
    ...in the complaint as true in ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081-82, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972)(per curiam). Essentially, the "court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3315 cases
  • 159 B.R. 385 (S.D.N.Y. 1993), 92 civ. 1778 , Luedke v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • August 20, 1993
    ...construe them in favor of the pleader. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 On this Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Committee and its members challenge the sufficiency of the alleg......
  • 178 B.R. 956 (D.Del. 1994), A92-84, In re Buckhead America Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of Delaware
    • January 28, 1994
    ...for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081-82, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972) (per curiam ). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable in......
  • 213 F.R.D. 308 (S.D.Iowa 2003), 4-02-CV-90500, Martino-Catt v. E.I. duPont de Nemours and Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • February 20, 2003
    ...a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972); In re Navarre Corp. Sec. Litig., 299 F.3d 735, 741 (8th Cir.2002). This deferential standard of review......
  • 254 B.R. 104 (Bkrtcy.D.N.J. 1999), 97-22977, In re Halpert & Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Third Circuit
    • February 25, 1999
    ...in the complaint as true in ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 1081-82, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972)(per curiam). Essentially, the "court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear t......
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3 firm's commentaries
  • Twenty Years After Reform, Inmate Litigation Still Crowds Dockets
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • February 20, 2017
    ...while he may be unsuccessful, can at least look forward to "a short sabbatical in the nearest federal courthouse." Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 327 (1972) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). Thus, the temptation to file frivolous or malicious suits is strong, and these suits clutter up th......
  • Twenty Years After Reform, Inmate Litigation Still Crowds Dockets
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • February 8, 2017
    ...prisoner, while he may be unsuccessful, can at least look forward to “a short sabbatical in the nearest federal courthouse.” Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 327 (1972) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). Thus, the temptation to file frivolous or malicious suits is strong, and these suits clutter up th......
  • Federal Court Ruling that the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” Program Violates the Fourth Amendment
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • August 12, 2013
    ...“minor adjustments” — would suffice to address any constitutional wrongs that 16 Plata, 131 S. Ct. at 1928 (citing Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972) (per curiam)) (quotation marks omitted). Accord Todaro v. Ward, 565 F.2d 48, 53–54 (2d Cir. 1977) (“‘[A] policy of judicial restraint can......
24 books & journal articles
  • Exploring methods to improve management and fairness in pro se cases: a study of the pro se docket in the Southern District of New York.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 30 Nbr. 1, November 2002
    • November 1, 2002
    ...filing frivolous complaints as a means of gaining a "short sabbatical in the nearest Federal courthouse." (quoting Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 327 (1972) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) (citations omitted)); id. at S14611-01, S14626-27 (daily ed. Sept. 29, 1995) (statement of Sen. Hat......
  • Recasting prosecutorial discretion.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 86 Nbr. 3, March 1996
    • March 22, 1996
    ...418 U.S. 539 (1974) (allowing prison officials to open mail from inmate's attorney in presence of inmate). (163) In Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972), the Court held that an inmate retained substantial First Amendment rights to practice his religion. In O'Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S.......
  • Faith profaned: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and religion in the prisons.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 106 Nbr. 2, November - November 1996
    • November 1, 1996
    ...(72.) See C. Ronald Huff, The Discovery of Prisoners' Rights, in Legal Rights of Prioners 47, 51 (Geoffrey P. Alpert ed., 1980). (73.) 405 U.S. 319 (1972). (74.) Id. at 320. (75.) See id. at 321. (76.) Id. (77.) Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 550 (1979) (upholding regulation preventing pris......
  • Aggregation as disempowerment: red flags in class action settlements.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 92 Nbr. 2, December - December 2016
    • December 1, 2016
    ...358 (1969); Allen v. State Bd. of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969). (20) See, e.g., Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Inmates of Attica Con. Facility v. Rockefeller, 477 F.2d 375 (2d Cir. 1973); Mead v. Parker, 464 F.2d 1108 (9th Cir. 1972); Jackson v......
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