On September 22, 2003, several inmates in the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa, filed a lawsuit pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against administrative officials of the Iowa Department of Corrections in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The plaintiffs, later appointed private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages, alleging that the defendants were subjecting them to "religious discrimination and persecution." Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that the defendants locked them in disciplinary segregation, retaliated against them, and falsely labeled them a gang due to their affiliation with their religion, the Church of New Song (CONS).
The plaintiffs asked the Court to declare (1) that they had been subject to religious persecution, discrimination, and retaliatory treatment in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights; and (2) that the defendants had falsified investigative and disciplinary records to, among other things, close down CONS. The plaintiffs also sought injunctive relief enjoining the defendants from further persecuting and retaliating against members of CONS and compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $1,500,000.00.
On March 8, 2004, the District Court (Judge James E. Gritzner) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order on June 28, 2004. On October 21, 2004, the Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Bremer to determine whether a settlement conference should be held. The final entry on the docket is on February 22, 2005, when the Court (Judge Gritzner) issued an order staying the case pending the outcome of another case, Wycoff v. Brewer
, which also concerned the CONS. The Court reasoned that the proceedings in Wycoff
, where prison officials sought court relief with respect to the CONS, would very likely affect the outcome of this case.
On March 4, 2009, as a result of the ruling in Wycoff (which had been recaptioned Smith v. Ault
) that the CONS would no longer have protected status, the Court lifted the stay. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgement (a decision rendered when the law allows only one outcome) on various grounds. Plaintiffs did not resist the motion, and the Court extended time to reply, but Plaintiffs still did not resist. Holding that the record showed Plaintiffs had broken prison disciplinary rules and had failed to show that the motivating factor for the disciplinary measures was retaliation, the Court found in favor of the Defendants and dismissed the case on July 23, 2009.
Other cases related to the Church of New Song include Remmers v. Brewer, 361 F.Supp. 537 (S.D. Iowa 1973), PC-IA-0013 and Goff v. Mascher, PC-IA-0023.Stacey Jensen - 06/05/2006
Kenneth Gray - 07/11/2013