Americans United for Sep. v. Prison Fellowship, 4:03 CV 90074(Lead).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
Citation432 F.Supp.2d 862
Docket NumberNo. 4:02 CV 90447.,No. 4:03 CV 90074(Lead).,No. 4:03 CV 90101.,4:03 CV 90074(Lead).,4:02 CV 90447.,4:03 CV 90101.
PartiesIn the matter of AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PRISON FELLOWSHIP MINISTRIES, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date02 June 2006

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432 F.Supp.2d 862
No. 4:03 CV 90074(Lead).
No. 4:02 CV 90447.
No. 4:03 CV 90101.
United States District Court, S.D. Iowa.
June 2, 2006.

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Alex J. Luchenitser, Richard B. Katskee, Ayesha N. Khan, Sara Jeannette Rose, Heather Lynn Weaver, Americans United, Washington, DC, Dean A. Stowers, Rosenberg, Stowers & Morse, Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiffs.

Gordon E. Allen, H. Loraine Wallace, Department of Justice, Des Moines, IA, for Defendants.

Anthony F. Troy, Robert A. Angle, Ashley Taylor, Megan C. Rahman, Michael Lacy, Troutman Sanders LLP, Richmond, VA, Brent R. Appel, Wandro, Baer, Appel & Casper, PC, Des Moines, IA, for the Private Defendants.


PRATT, Chief Judge.


The issue to be resolved in this case is whether the contractual relationship between the state of Iowa Department of Corrections ("Dept. of Corrections") and InnerChange Freedom Initiative ("Inner-Change" or "IFI") impermissibly advances religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.1 The Court conducted a bench trial on the matter over a fourteen-day period from October 24, 2005, to November 4, 2005, and then from November 28, 2005, to December 1, 2005. The trial included a site visit to the Newton Correctional Facility ("Newton Facility") where the Inner-Change inmate rehabilitation program is located.

Post-trial, the parties filed their Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Clerk's Nos. 354 and 361), and subsequent Responses (Clerk's Nos. 362 and 363). This Memorandum and Order constitutes the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a).2 A

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separate document entry of the judgment will also be filed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(a)(1). To the extent any motions made under Rule 52(c) were deferred by the Court and remain outstanding, they are resolved by this Memorandum and Order. The matter is fully submitted.

The Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief as authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.3 At the outset of this case, the Plaintiffs sought a judicial declaration that the state Defendants violated the United States and Iowa Constitutions by authorizing the operation of InnerChange in the Newton Facility and that Inner-Change and Prison Fellowship Ministries ("Prison Fellowship") violated the United States and Iowa Constitutions, acting under the color of law, by discriminating against inmates based on their religious beliefs in the offering and providing of a values-based pre-release program and by discriminating in employment based on religion with respect to positions partly financed by government funds. As mentioned, supra note 1, the employment claim is now moot.

The injunctive relief sought by the Plaintiffs is a complete prohibition on InnerChange operating within the Iowa correctional system. Short of that, the Plaintiffs seek a prohibition on any state funding—direct or in-kind—to support the InnerChange program in any manner. In the alternative, the Plaintiffs urge that should InnerChange be allowed to continseparate

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ue in Iowa, then a similar type of valuesbased program should be made available to non-InnerChange inmates from a secular standpoint and from the standpoint of other faith traditions. The Plaintiffs also seek the reinstatement of Plaintiffs Chandler and McKeag to Unit E of the Newton Facility where they were housed before the implementation of the Dept. of Corrections—InnerChange contract.

The Plaintiffs seek the return of state funds used to pay InnerChange and the return of monies taken from the Inmate Telephone Rebate Fund ("Telephone Fund"), by way of a pro rata refund to each inmate account in an amount equal to that taken to fund the InnerChange program at the Newton Facility. The Plaintiffs dropped their request for nominal damages against the named individual state Defendants. See Stipulation of Dismissal of Req. for Nominal Damages (Clerk's No. 235).

A decision about whether the Establishment Clause is violated by the Defendants' actions does not entail a decision about the ultimate truthfulness of religion, nor the truthfulness of the theological underpinnings of the religious denominations and faith groups represented in this case. See Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 625, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 29 L.Ed.2d 745 (1971) (Lemon I) ("The merit and benefits of these [programs], however, are not the issue before us in these cases. The sole question is whether state aid ... can be squared with the dictates of the Religion Clauses."). In what appears now to be a bit of theological irony, given that the doctrine of separation between church and state is often viewed as a secular product, Thomas Jefferson rooted his ideas about that doctrine in the religious belief "that Almighty God has created the mind free ... [and, therefore] the Holy Author . . . chose not to propagate [religion] by coercion ... as was in his Almighty power to do ...." See Virginia Religious Freedom Act, 1786, in The Complete Bill of Rights: The Drafts, Debates, Sources, & Origins 51 (Neil H. Cogan ed., 1997).4 This Court makes no such assertions about the ultimate source of the law it must interpret. Just as the Court asserts no theological expertise in this matter, the Court is also not an expert in the field of prisoner rehabilitation. The central issue presented before this Court, therefore, is not whether Iowa inmates can be helped in their rehabilitation by religion, but whether the State of Iowa's contract

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with InnerChange shackles5 the Plaintiff taxpayers and inmates in a way that violates their rights under the United States and Iowa Constitutions.


A review' of the Court's subject matter jurisdiction is always warranted, regardless of the stage of litigation. See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 143 L.Ed.2d 760 (1999) ("[S]ubject-matter delineations must be policed by the courts on their own initiative even at the highest level."). The Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3), as well as supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Its authority to grant declaratory relief and further remedy is contained in 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

Despite a previous ruling by this Court on the issue, the Defendants raised the matter of Plaintiffs' standing at trial. At the close of the Plaintiffs' case-in-chief, though conceding that the inmate Plaintiffs had standing, Defendants argued that the Iowa taxpayer Plaintiffs and Americans United for Separation of Church and State ("Americans United") failed to offer sufficient evidence to meet the required constitutional standing elements. Trial Tr. at 2038-40. "Whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action." Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). Counsel for the Defendants stated: "[T]hough Plaintiffs had declarations to get over the issue of standing for taxpayers [at the summary judgment stage], they have not put in a single instance of a person coming into court in any way, shape or form and stating that they are a taxpayer and that they pay funds to the State of Iowa." Trial Tr. at 2038-40.

In an Order (Clerk's No. 327) dated November 17, 2005, the Court denied the Defendants' motion, made at trial, to dismiss the claims of the taxpayer Plaintiffs based on standing. In doing so, the Court relied on its Order, filed on April 29, 2005, granting Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the issue of standing. See Mem. and Order on Cross Mot. for Summ. J. at 4-14 (Clerk's No. 212). The Court, rather than relying on its April 2005 Order to decide the Defendants' renewed motion regarding standing, should have reconsidered the Defendants' Rule 12 motion, considering all the evidence received up to the time of the renewed motion. See Delorme v. United States, 354 F.3d 810, 815 (8th Cir.2004) ("The burden to show standing is not a mere pleading requirement, `but rather an indispensable part of the plainiff's case.'") (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992)). "Each and every element of the standing requirements `must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.'" See Delorme, 354 F.3d at 815 (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130). "Strict compliance with this jurisdictional standing requirement is mandated." See Delorme, 354 F.3d at 815 (quoting Johnson

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v. Missouri, 142 F.3d 1087, 1088 (8th Cir.1998) (internal citation omitted)).

Notwithstanding the rule to consider standing in the context of each stage of the litigation, the Court, in its April 2005 Order, did not simply rely on the "declarations" of the taxpayer Plaintiffs themselves regarding standing, but also relied on the Defendants' own Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Clerk's No. 94). Pls.' Ex. 479. As their second undisputed fact in this case, the Defendants claimed that "Plaintiffs Carol Delp, Ardene McKeag, Dorothy Redd, and Sandra Sobotka (collectively "Taxpayer Plaintiffs") are residents of Iowa who pay taxes to the State of Iowa." Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Based Upon Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Clerk's No. 94) ¶ 2 (Pls.' Ex. 479). Defendants' third undisputed fact is that "Plaintiff Americans United for Separation of Church and State ("AU") is a non-profit advocacy organization whose self-described purpose is to...

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