• U.S. District Court of Delaware
  • D66362
  • Jun 16 2014 (Date Decided)

U.S. District Court of Delaware

Desmond v. Phelps, DeFAX Case No. D66362 (D. Del. June 16, 2014) Robinson, J. (5 pages).

Plaintiffs-inmates' motions for injunctive relief and motion for reconsideration were denied in their lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Plaintiffs, inmates housed at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, De., filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief in their §1983 and RLUIPA lawsuit to restrict defendants from retaliating against them based upon their religion. After the court ordered defendants to file a supplemental response, plaintiff Christopher Desmond filed a motion to alter or amend that order, which the court construed as a motion for reconsideration. Desmond raised several grounds for reconsideration, none of which were availing. Therefore, the court denied the motion.

In the motions for injunctive relief, plaintiffs claimed that defendants had discriminated against them based upon their Catholic religion and that they were denied access to Catholic services and religious leaders when compared to other religions. Desmond sought the reinstatement of banned Catholic volunteers and the programs they provided. Plaintiffs further argued that prison policies gutted core sacraments of the Catholic mass or prayers, prohibited Catholic dietary foods and feast practices, eviscerated Catholic social justice programs and education, eliminated access to Catholic information or education sources and discriminated between secular or Protestant beliefs and Catholic beliefs.

Defendants refuted those claims as follows: (1) the treatment of religious volunteers at the facility was the same regardless of religious denomination, (2) the banned volunteers were barred for failure to comply with certain policies and not for their religious views or expressions, (3) there was no interference with Catholic religious requirements, (4) there was no favoritism shown to any particular religion and great efforts were made to ensure that inmates had adequate (and to the extent possible) equal access to programs and worship opportunities, (5) inmates were allowed to have up to three books in their cell, the prison library's religious educational resources included many Catholic resources and, upon request, inmates could have access to religious television and video programs, (6) there were no religious programs at the facility that entitle an inmate to good time credit upon completion and (7) housing records did not support plaintiffs' contentions that they were transferred to a higher security housing unit for speaking out in furtherance of their Catholic faith.

Upon review of the allegations and the evidence, the court found that plaintiffs failed to establish all elements of a preliminary injunction in their favor, thus a preliminary injunction was inappropriate. Plaintiffs did not demonstrate the likelihood of success on the merits, the record did not reflect that denial of plaintiffs' motion would result in irreparable harm to plaintiffs and granting injunctive relief was in contravention of the public's interest in the effective and orderly operation of its prison system.

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