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Winnett v. Bray

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division

November 22, 2017

DONALD F. WINNETT, ADC # 139544 PLAINTIFF
v.
ALEX BRAY DEFENDANT

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         I. Procedures for Filing Objections:

         This Recommended Disposition (“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge Kristine G. Baker. Either party may file written objections to this Recommendation. Objections must be specific and must include the factual or legal basis for the objection. To be considered, objections must be received in the office of the Court Clerk within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation.

         If no objections are filed, Judge Baker can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, parties may also waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         II. Discussion:

         A. Background

         Plaintiff Donald F. Winnett, an Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) inmate, claims that Defendant Bray violated his rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) by denying him Sabbath meals.[1] (Docket entry #1) Specifically, Mr. Winnett alleges that Defendant Bray, a chaplain at the East Arkansas Unit of the ADC, failed to provide him with “religious meals” on Saturdays. (#2) Mr. Winnett allegedly asked Defendant Bray about his religious meals on October 2, 2015, and on three other occasions. (#2, p. 6 & 13)

         Defendant Bray has filed a motion for summary judgment (#203), and Mr. Winnett responded. (#235, #245) In turn, Mr. Winnett has filed four cross-motions for summary judgment. (#213, #221, #227, #246) Defendant Bray has responded to Mr. Winnett's motions. (#217, #229)

         B. Standard

         Summary judgment means that the court rules in favor of a party before trial. A moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the party on the other side of the lawsuit, shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any fact that is important to the outcome of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322B23, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 246, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986).

         C. Facts

         The important facts in this case are undisputed. Mr. Winnett is a member of the “House of Yahweh, ” also known as “Sabbath Day Adventist.” (#2, #203-1, p.4) House of Yahweh adherents consider Saturday as Sabbath. (#203-1, p.8) The tenets of his faith require that he never consume pork and that he not consume a meal prepared on the Sabbath. (#203-1, p.10-11) Defendant Bray does not contest the fact that Mr. Winnett has sincerely held religious beliefs; nor does he dispute that Mr. Winnett's Sabbath meal cannot include pork and cannot have been prepared on Saturday. (#204)

         Mr. Winnett filed a grievance regarding the issue, explaining that he wanted a half loaf of bread and a cup of peanut butter on Saturdays for his Sabbath meals. (#2, p.13) It is undisputed that the prison did not provide Mr. Winnett bread and peanut butter, as he requested, but instead offered him Common Fare. (#2, p.12) Mr. Winnett appealed the denial of his grievance, writing that Common Fare did not resolve his issue. (#2, p.12) The appeal was found to be without merit. (#2, p.11)

         It is undisputed that the ADC provides inmates who have religious dietary restrictions, including Mr. Winnett, the option of Common Fare. (#203-2; #203-1, p. 16) Common Fare meals are pre-packaged and pork-free. (#203-2) Mr. Winnett admits that Defendant Bray offered him Common Fare on one Saturday in the chow hall. (#203-1, pp.13, 15, 16, 22) Mr. Winnett also admits that Common Fare meets his religious requirements because it is pork-free and not prepared on Saturdays. (#203-1, p.16, 22-23)

         However, Mr. Winnett refuses to eat Common Fare and insists on bread and peanut butter. (#203-1, p.9) Mr. Winnett admits that his religion does not require him to eat peanut butter and bread. (#203-1, p.9) His objection to Common Fare is that he does not want to eat it. He does not allege that Common Fare fails to comport with requirements of the ...


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