Am. Humanist Ass'n. United States, Case No. 3:14–cv–00565–HA.

Decision Date30 October 2014
Docket NumberCase No. 3:14–cv–00565–HA.
Citation63 F.Supp.3d 1274
PartiesAMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION and Jason Michael Holden, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America; Federal Bureau of Prisons; Federal Correctional Institution Sheridan, Oregon; Juan D. Castillo, Western Regional Director of the Bureau of Prisons; Marion Feather, Warden of the Federal Correctional Institution Sheridan, Oregon; and Richard Kowalczyk, Chaplain of the Federal Correctional Institution Sheridan, Oregon, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Oregon

Benjamin Wright Haile, Portland Law Collective, LLP, Portland, OR, David A. Niose, Law Offices of David Niose, Fitchburg, MA, Monica L. Miller, American Humanist Association, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Kevin C. Danielson, Natalie K. Wight, United States Attorney's Office, Portland, OR, for Defendants.


HAGGERTY, District Judge:

Plaintiffs, the American Humanist Association and inmate Jason Michael Holden, bring this action seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief alleging that defendants, the federal government, Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Sheridan, Oregon, as well as individual officials, BOP Regional Director Juan D. Castillo, FCI Sheridan Warden Marion Feather, and Sheridan Chaplain Richard Kowalcyzk, violated Holden's constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendments. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss [25] pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendants argue that plaintiffs' claims are moot; that they failed to state either an Establishment Clause or Equal Protection claim; that their Bivens claim is improper; that the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; that the court does not have personal jurisdiction over defendant Castillo; and that the plaintiffs failed to allege Castillo's personal involvement. For the following reasons, defendants' Motion to Dismiss [25] is denied.


Plaintiff Jason Holden has been in the custody of FCI Sheridan since April 21, 2010. A professed Humanist, Holden alleges that defendants violated his First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights by their refusal to authorize either a Humanist study group or an Atheist study group, or to recognize Humanism as a religious assignment.

When an inmate is admitted to FCI Sheridan, he may designate a religious preference assignment, which the institution staff will then enter into the SENTRY system, a real time information system for processing sensitive but unclassified inmate information necessary for running the institution. At the time that plaintiffs filed suit, FCI Sheridan recognized the following religious assignments: Atheist, Adventist, American Indian, Buddhist, Catholic, Church of Christ, Hindu, Jehovah's Witness, Jewish, Messianic, Moorish Science Temple, Mormon, Muslim, Nation of Islam, No Preference, Non–Trinitarian, Orthodox, Other, Pagan, Protestant, Rastafarian, Santeria, Sikh, and Unknown. The FCI Sheridan also permitted the following sub-groups to meet in study groups: Spanish Protestant, Native American Church, Native American (Hawaiian), Druid, and Odinist/Asatru. Inmates of FCI-recognized religious assignments are entitled to the following benefits: (1) “proscription days” for religious holidays; (2) at least one hour per week of group study time; and (3) at least one hour per week of group worship time.

On April 15, 2012, Holden sought permission to make Humanism his religious assignment but was told by then Assistant Chaplain Jason Henderson that Humanism was not an option. Holden selected Atheist as his religious assignment instead despite the fact that Atheism does not adequately capture his system of beliefs. At that time, neither Humanists nor Atheists, despite the fact that the latter was listed on SENTRY, had a venue for group meetings. Holden asserts that at least ten additional inmates incarcerated at FCI Sheridan identify as Humanists and are interested in joining a Humanist study group. That same day, Holden asked Assistant Chaplain Henderson if he could form a Humanist study group, Henderson provided Holden with form BP–822, which an inmate must fill out to have a new or unfamiliar religion officially recognized with the FCI. Henderson warned Holden that the BOP views Humanism as a philosophy rather than a religion and recommended that instead he should informally request “cop out” time for Atheists. A cop out is a BP S148.055 “Inmate Request to Staff” form, which is used for inmate grievances and requests.

Heeding Henderson's advice, on April 29, 2012, Holden submitted the cop out form to the Chaplain's office requesting time for Atheists to meet. On June 11, 2012, then Head Chaplain Ronald Richter informed Holden and another Humanist inmate that his request was denied. Richter informed them that chapel programming was limited to religious programs and that programs that are moralistic or philosophical in nature may be conducted in the education department.

On July 13, 2012, Holden submitted a cop out form to Supervisor of Education Sue Cain requesting a venue for Humanists to meet in the Education Department. Additionally on July 18, 2012, Holden submitted a request to Warden Marion Feather to establish “Humanists of Sheridan” as an inmate organization. On August 1, 2012, Feather denied Holden's request. On August 6, 2012, Holden sent a second request to Feather seeking to establish a Humanist group; along with the request, Holden sent additional background information in support of his request. Holden's second request was also denied. On September 4, 2012, Holden received a response from Cain also denying his request. Cain told Holden that the Education Department cannot support groups that are “either for or against theism.”

On September 15, 2012, Holden spoke with new Head Chaplain Myers about the BP–822 form. Myers advised Holden that Humanism is not a religion and that his application to recognize Humanism would not be successful. On October 5, 2012, Holden submitted the BP–822 form requesting that Humanism be his religious assignment in SENTRY. Holden provided materials detailing the history of Humanism as a religion along with the form. Myers informed Holden that he was not interested in reading Holden's BP–822 form and that he would forward his request to the Warden.

On December 7, 2012, Holden spoke with Warden Feather about his application and she suggested that he speak with the Chaplain. On February 28, 2013, Holden spoke with Chaplain Richard Kowalczyk, who was Supervisor of Religious Services at that time. Kowalczyk told Holden that his BP–822 form was denied. Kowalczyk explained to Holden that Humanism is an “individualized religion” and that it would be a contradiction to accommodate “a congregation of individuals.”

On March 4, 2013, Holden submitted a Informal Resolution form (BP–8) which is required prior to filing a Request for Administrative Remedy form (BP–9). On or about March 11, 2013, Holden submitted the BP–9 form to the Warden along with supporting documentation. On March 14, 2013, Warden Feather affirmed the denial of the request. Warden Feather said that the “designation of ‘Atheist’ already exists to encompass the Humanist point of view.” Notwithstanding that fact, FCI Sheridan officials had denied Holden's request to form an Atheist study group despite the fact that Atheism is considered a religion at the FCI Sheridan.

On March 18, 2013, Holden mailed the Administrative Remedy Form (BP–10) to the BOP Western Regional Office along with his BP–9 form and supporting exhibits. On April 24, 2013, Holden received a response to his BP–10 form from BOP Western Regional Director Juan D. Castillo. Signed April 3, 2013, Castillo affirmed the denial of Holden's request to allow Humanist inmates to meet as a group in Religious Services as well as the creation of a Humanist religious assignment.

On April 28, 2013, Holden mailed the Administrative Remedy Form (BP–11) to the BOP Office of the General Counsel, attaching supporting exhibits along with the copies of previous administrative remedy forms and their responses. On May 26, 2013, Holden received a Notice of Rejection of his BP–11 Form because it lacked the required copies. The notice had been mailed on May 9, 2013, and its resubmission deadline was May 24, 2013. On May 29, 2013, Unit Manager S. Price sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Holden's behalf explaining that he was unable to timely resubmit his form because he did not receive the notice until after the resubmission deadline had passed. On May 30, 2009, Holden resubmitted his BP–11 form, Nonetheless, on July 2, 2013, Holden's BP–11 form was rejected as untimely.

On July 5, 2013, Holden was instructed to send a cop out form to Administrative Coordinator Thompson for instructions on how to proceed in order to exhaust his administrative remedies. On July 8, 2013, Holden sent a cop out form to Thompson. On July 16, 2013, Warden Feather responded to the cop out, directing Holden to discuss his inability to file his remedy with Unit Manager Price, which Holden had done previously.

On April 8, 2014, plaintiffs filed suit against defendants. On or about May 20, 2014, Chaplain Kowalczyk notified Holden that his BP–822 request for a Humanist group was being revisited. On or about June 24, 2014, Chaplain Kowalczyk, informed Holden that Holden could form a Unitarian Universalist study group. Holden said that this was unacceptable since he does not consider himself a Universalist Unitarian. When Holden asked to have the group called Humanist, Kowalcyzk responded that the label might exclude others.

Sometime in early July 2014, the FCI Sheridan Religious Services Department added a Humanist Study Group to the program schedule. Holden claims he was not informed of this change but began attending meetings on July 7, 2014. Despite these accommodations, plaintiffs allege that defendants are still singling out...

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