Randall Shield Wolf Trapp et al.
Lawrence Dubois et al.
SUPERIOR COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS, AT WORCESTER
February 27, 1998, Decided
ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The above named plaintiffs are inmates at the North Central Correctional
Institution in Gardner, Massachusetts ("NCCI") and members of the Native American Spiritual Council. They filed this action
against defendants in 1995 alleging violations of their rights to
religious freedom under various federal and state statutes, the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Plaintiffs
have filed their second motion for
summary judgment on counts alleging violations of
religious freedom based on the denial of space and funding for a sweat lodge and the prohibition
on storage of
religious items in their cells. For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion for
summary judgment is
Under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, a law burdening
religious practice must advance compelling state interests and must be narrowly tailored
pursuit of those interests.
Attorney General v. Desilets, 418 Mass. 316, 321 n.4, 636 N.E.2d 233
[*2] (1994); Mass. Declaration of Rights Pt. 1, Art 2. However, as a threshold matter,
plaintiffs must prove that the activity interfered with by the State is rooted
in a legitimate and sincerely held
Attorney General v. Bailey, 386 Mass. 367, 375, 436 N.E.2d 139 (1982).
The plaintiffs' first motion for
summary judgment was denied on February 26, 1996. The Court (Travers, J.) found
issues of material fact as to the
sincerity of plaintiffs' beliefs, whether there is a
compelling state interest in regulating the plaintiffs' exercise of their religion and whether the means
employed to do so are the
least restrictive available.
In support of the motion sub judicata, i.e., their second motion for
summary judgment, the
deposition testimony of defendant DuBois in which he stated that he had no reason to doubt the
sincerity of their
religious beliefs. That
deposition testimony, however, is not necessarily binding on all parties and, furthermore can be
rebutted at trial. Mass.R.Civ.P. 32(b).
See also Mass. Prac. Vol 7, 32.7. For that reason, defendant DuBois' opinion regarding
sincerity of plaintiffs'
religious beliefs does not resolve
[*3] the issues of fact identified by this Court in its earlier order; and, in any
event, there remain
issues of material fact with respect to the state's interest in governing the exercise of plaintiffs'
observances, even if those
observances were found to be sincere.
With respect to their argument that defendants cannot prove a
compelling state interest, plaintiffs have submitted
deposition testimony of defendant Chalapatas in which he states that headbands were not a security
risk to his knowledge. Plaintiffs have
submitted no other evidence tending to prove that defendants will be unable to
prove their burden of a
compelling state interest and
least restrictive means at trial. Again, plaintiffs have not met their burden on this claim.
Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion for
summary judgment must be
Robert H. Bohn, Jr.
Justice of the Superior Court
Dated: February 27, 1998