United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
THOMAS H. L. BARFELL, Plaintiff,
ARAMARK CORRECTIONAL SERVICES and SGT. PARENT, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District
commenced this action on November 8, 2017, claiming that he
requested a vegan diet for religious reasons while he was an
inmate at the Winnebago County Jail and his request was not
approved until five days later. During that 5-day period of
time, Plaintiff states he had to choose between eating food
and exercising his religion. In an April 16, 2018 screening
order, Barfell was allowed to proceed with a First Amendment
claim against Aramark, the food contractor for the jail, and
Sergeant Raemy Parent, an administrative sergeant who, among
other things, served as the religious diet coordinator for
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on November 16, 2018 and
mailed a copy of their motion and supporting papers to
Barfell at the Winnebago County Jail, which was the address
shown on the docket. On January 2, 2019, Defendants'
counsel notified the court that the motion and supporting
documents were returned to his office by the postal service
as undeliverable. Counsel learned that Barfell was at Dodge
Correctional Institution via the Department of Corrections
inmate locator, and remailed the documents to Plaintiff at
that address on November 21, 2018.
the local rule, and as explained in the motions themselves,
Barfell was required to file a response to the
defendants' motions within 30 days of service. Civil L.
R. 56(b)(2); ECF Nos. 42, 47. Furthermore, “[f]ailure
to file a memorandum in opposition to a motion is sufficient
cause for the Court to grant the motion.” Civil L. R.
7(d). For this reason alone, defendants motions can be
granted. Upon review of the defendants' motions,
including their proposed findings of fact which are
uncontroverted, it is also clear that they are entitled to
summary judgment on the merits.
well established that inmates of jails and correctional
institutions retain protections afforded by the First
Amendment, “including its directive that no law shall
prohibit the free exercise of religion.” O'Lone
v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 348 (1987). At the
same time, “[l]awful incarceration brings about the
necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and
rights, a retraction justified by the considerations
underlying our penal system.” Price v.
Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285 (1948). “Prison
officials may restrict inmate's ability to practice his
faith so long as the restriction is reasonably related to a
legitimate penological interest.” Ortiz v.
Downey, 561 F.3d 664, 669 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing
Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89-91 (1987)). In
addition to the First Amendment, the right of jail and prison
inmates to exercise their religion also receives protection
under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons
Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a); Nelson v.
Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 878 (7th Cir. 2009). Barfell
alleged that the defendants violated his federal rights by
failing to provide him a special diet for five days after he
first requested one.
inmate does not have a right to a special diet just because
he wants one, however. Koger v. Bryan, 523 F.3d 789,
797 (7th Cir. 2008). “Although RLUIPA bars inquiry into
whether a particular belief or practice is central to a
prisoner's religion, ... [it] does not preclude inquiry
into the sincerity of a prisoner's professed
religiosity.” Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S.
709, 725 n. 13 (2005) (internal quotation and citation
omitted). “Because RLUIPA is a guarantor of sincerely
held religious beliefs, it may not be invoked simply to
protect any ‘way of life, however virtuous and
admirable, ... if it is based on purely secular
considerations.'” Koger, 523 F.3d at 797
(quoting Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215
(1972)). Thus, if an inmate's desire for a non-meat diet
was rooted solely in concerns for his bodily health, it would
not be protected by RLUIPA, or for that matter, the First
Amendment. Koger, 523 F.3d at 797.
undisputed that Barfell never told the defendants what
religion he was seeking to practice. Indeed, there is good
reason to question whether his request was motivated by
religious belief at all. Barfell was booked into the jail on
September 5, 2017. Although he was provided a copy of the
Inmate Handbook, which states that all religious diets are
approved by the Administrative Jail Sergeant, he made no
request for a vegan diet until September 21, 2017. Even then,
he failed to identify the religion he sought to practice.
Despite several requests, Barfell never did identify the
religion he claimed he was practicing. After several attempts
to obtain his response, Sergeant Parent approved the special
diet for Barfell even though he still had not identified his
religion. This was apparently five days after his initial
request. Aramark provided its vegan meals to Barfell
Barfell has not responded to the defendants' motions,
their proposed findings of fact are deemed uncontroverted.
Those facts conclusively establish that the defendants are
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Despite
Barfell's failure to identify his religious belief,
Sergeant Parent authorized the vegan meals for him after a
delay of only five days. Given these facts, Barfell cannot
show that he was entitled to a religious diet or, even if he
was, that the five day delay substantially burdened the
exercise of his religion. As to Aramark, the undisputed facts
establish that it provided Barfell a vegan meal when directed
to do so by the jail administrator. The meals provided met
the applicable standards. Barfell's claim thus fails.
and for the reasons set for above, the defendants'
motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 42, 47) are granted
and all claims against the defendants are dismissed on their
merits and with prejudice. The Clerk is directed to enter