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Case Name American Humanist Association v. Perry PC-NC-0021
Docket / Court 5:15-ct-03053 ( E.D.N.C. )
Additional Docket(s) 5:15-cv-70  [ 15-70 ]  Eastern District of NC (U.S.)
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
This case is about the refusal of North Carolina's Department of Public Safety (DPS) to recognize Humanism as a faith group within the state prison system. On February 2, 2015, an inmate in a North Carolina prison and the American Humanist Association filed this lawsuit in the Eastern District of ... read more >
This case is about the refusal of North Carolina's Department of Public Safety (DPS) to recognize Humanism as a faith group within the state prison system. On February 2, 2015, an inmate in a North Carolina prison and the American Humanist Association filed this lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina against officers of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety that are involved in policy decisions related to recognition of faith groups in state prison under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Represented by the American Humanist Association's own legal team as well as private counsel, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants' disparate treatment of Humanists violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, a permanent injunction, and attorneys' fees.

On July 28, 2017, both the plaintiffs and defendants filed for summary judgment. On March 29, 2018, Judge Terrence W. Boyle granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment. 303 F.Supp.3d 421. The court rejected the defendants' argument that the American Humanist Association did not have standing in this case. Judge Boyle found that the American Humanist Association had associational standing because of its representation of other Humanist inmates incarcerated by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Regarding the plaintiffs' First Amendment claim, the court found that the defendants violated the Establishment Clause because the defendants did not have a secular purpose for denying Humanism recognition as a religious group or for their decision to prohibit Humanist inmates from organized group meetings. In addition, the defendants failed to put forth any evidence to support space, resource, or security concerns applicable to Humanist inmates that did not apply equally to other religious groups. Regarding the plaintiffs' Equal Protection claim, the court found that a violation because the defendants' authorized other non-theistic religions but not Humanism and there was not a rational connection between the defendants' cited interests in space, resources, and security and their refusal to recognize Humanism.

Judge Boyle granted the plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction, ordering DPS to recognize Humanism as a faith group and to permit a Humanist study group to meet within North Carolina state prisons on the same terms as other faiths are allowed. He also granted the plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment, stating that the defendants violated the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause by refusing to recognize Humanism as a faith group and to allow it to be designated on an inmate's prison records. Because the plaintiffs suffered constitutional violations at the hands of defendants, the court awarded nominal damages ($1.00) to the plaintiffs. Judge Boyle also awarded the plaintiffs attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The court retained jurisdiction to make any further orders necessary to carry out the terms of the relief.

On July 9, 2018, the court ordered defendants to pay $5,905.25 to the plaintiffs for various court costs. On July 10, 2018, the plaintiffs withdrew their motion for attorneys' fees and litigation expenses, because the parties privately settled the matter of attorneys fees and expenses. Since the entering of the permanent injunction and motions regarding attorneys fees and costs, there has been no activity in this case. The permanent injunction remains in effect.

Nicholas Gillan - 09/24/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Corrections
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) North Carolina Department of Public Safety
Plaintiff Description A Humanist inmate in the custody of North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the American Humanist Association, a nonprofit promoting Humanism, the separation of church and state, and the constitutional rights of Humanists
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2018 - n/a
Filed 02/25/2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
E.D.N.C.
07/10/2018
5:15-ct-03053
PC-NC-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D.N.C.
02/25/2015
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-NC-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D.N.C.
03/29/2018
Order [ECF# 103] (303 F.Supp.3d 421)
PC-NC-0021-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
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Judges Boyle, Terrence William (E.D.N.C.) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-0002 | PC-NC-0021-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Jackson, John Christopher (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-0001 | PC-NC-0021-9000
Kivus, John T (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-9000
Miller, Monica L (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-0001 | PC-NC-0021-9000
Niose, David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-0001 | PC-NC-0021-9000
Wood, W Swain (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-0001 | PC-NC-0021-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Finarelli, Joseph (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-9000
Grande, Kimberly D. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-9000
Johnson, Kari (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-9000
Woodward, Thomas M (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PC-NC-0021-9000

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