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Bryant v. Gomez

filed*fn*: January 31, 1995.

JAMES E. BRYANT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES H. GOMEZ, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, CHARLES D. MARSHALL, WARDEN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. CV-92-03151-MHP. Marilyn H. Patel, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Herbert Y.c. Choy, Otto R. Skopil, Jr., and Warren J. Ferguson, Circuit Judges.

Per Curiam:

James E. Bryant appeals the district court's order granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Bryant contends that the district court erred by refusing to grant him relief, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, requiring the defendants to provide full religious Pentecostal services at the prison where Bryant is an inmate. We reject this contention and affirm.

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Jesinger v. Nevada Federal Credit Union, 24 F.3d 1127, 1130 (9th Cir. 1994).

In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb - 2000bb-4, which states in relevant part:

§ 2000bb-1. Free exercise of religion protected

(a) In general. Government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).

(b) Exception. Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person -

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

The purpose of the RFRA is "to restore the compelling interest test . . . in all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened." 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(b)(1). Given this broad purpose, it is clear that the RFRA applies to prisoners' claims.*fn1 Thus the issue of whether the prison violated Bryant's religious rights must be analyzed using the "substantial burden" test rather than the less stringent "reasonable opportunity" test previously employed.*fn2

Even under the more stringent "substantial burden" test, Bryant's § 1983 claim fails, because Bryant has not provided any facts to show that the activities which he wishes to engage in are mandated by the Pentecostal religion. In order to show a free exercise violation using the "substantial burden" test,

the religious adherent . . . has the obligation to prove that a governmental [action] burdens the adherent's practice of his or her religion . . . by preventing him or her from engaging in conduct or having a religious experience which the faith mandates. This interference must be more than an inconvenience; the burden must be substantial and an interference with a tenet or belief that is central to religious doctrine.

Graham v. C.I.R., 822 F.2d 844, 850-51 (9th Cir. 1987)(internal citations omitted), aff'd sub nom. Hernandez v. Commissioner, 490 U.S. 680, 699, 104 ...


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