United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
Proceedings Under 42 U.S.C. §1983 Before the U.S.
REPORT AND RECOMMENADTION
CHARLES H. WEIGLE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Shawn Jerome Knott claims that Defendant Gregory McLaughlin,
Warden of Macon State Prison, impermissibly burdened his
religious beliefs by forbidding inmates from participating in
congregational prayer services in their living quarters.
Before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
(Doc. 11). As discussed below, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Defendant's Motion
be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
an inmate at Macon State Prison, claims that he is a Sunni
Muslim and has a religious obligation to participate in
congregational prayer five times a day. (Doc. 1, p. 7; Doc.
15-1, p. 5). According to Plaintiff, these prayers last
between five and eight minutes. (Doc. 19, p. 5). Along with
his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a memorandum from Defendant
McLaughlin dated February 26, 2015, which states in relevant
immediately, at no time will offenders be allowed to gather
or pray in any area inside of the dorms or living units.
Religious services are offered in designated areas of the
facility. There will be no religious services or other
gathering in the dorms or living units for any reasons unless
approved by the Warden.
offender is free to pray in his individual assigned cell.
M-Building assigned inmates are free to pray near his
inmate in violation of this directive will be subject to
1, p. 10)
Court may consider the memorandum along with Plaintiff's
Complaint for purposes of resolving the Defendant's
Motion. Hoefling v. City of Miami, 811 F.3d 1271,
1277 (11th Cir. 2016) (“A district court can generally
consider exhibits attached to a complaint in ruling on a
motion to dismiss”).
to Plaintiff, congregational prayers were freely allowed at
Macon State Prison before Defendant McLaughlin issued his
memo in February 2015. (Doc. 15-1, p. 4). By Plaintiff's
account, prior Muslim congregational prayer services were
“conducted peacefully and out of the way of
others.” (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that he is
“restricted to the living unit” of his dormitory,
housing unit E-2, “for the vast majority of the
day.” (Doc. 15-1, p. 5). Therefore, the memo's ban
on congregational prayer services “inside of the dorms
or living units” effectively amounts to “a
complete prohibition of congregational prayer.” (Doc.
19, p. 3). Plaintiff alleges that other forms of group
activity “such as card playing, group rap (music)
sessions, dice games, [and] group exercise” are not
banned. (Doc. 15-1, pp. 8-9). Plaintiff further alleges that
the only alternative provided for Muslim congregational
prayer is a service provided only once per week, on Fridays.
(Doc. 15-1, p. 6).
March 2, 2015, Plaintiff alleges that he, along with other
Muslim inmates, participated in a congregational prayer
service in their living quarters, notwithstanding the
memo's ban. (Doc. 15-1, p. 6). By Plaintiff's
account, the Muslim inmates gathered “peacefully in the
corner of the dorm for a short period of time and then
dispersed.” (Doc. 15-1, p. 6). In response, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant McLaughlin “had the entire dorm
(E-2) of ninety six (96) men placed on lock down for several
days (March 2 - 12, 2015) [with the result that] all the
inmates in the dorm lost their visitation, phone, recreation,
television, and daily shower privileges.” (Doc. 15-1,
pp. 6-7). The incident caused “hostility towards the
Muslims.” (Doc. 15-1, p. 7). Plaintiff also received a
disciplinary report based on his violation of the
memorandum's ban on congregational prayer.
relief, Plaintiff seeks an injunction allowing him to resume
congregational prayer services, as well as nominal and