On August 3, 1972, two inmates of the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison filed a pro se lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa against prison officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion as members of the Church of New Song (CONS). They also complained that involving chaplains in the parole process violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. After a trial on February 22-23, 1973, the Court (Judge William C. Hansen) found for the plaintiffs, ruling that the Church of New Song was a religion protected by the First Amendment and ordered prison officials to grant the church's members equal rights to exercise their religion. Remmers v. Brewer, 361 F.Supp. 537 (S.D. Iowa 1973). The District Court further ruled that involving chaplains in the parole process was not a violation of the Establishment Clause.
The prison officials appealed and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Floyd R. Gibson, Roy L. Stephenson, and William H. Webster) affirmed. Remmers v. Brewer, 494 F.2d 1277 (8th Cir. 1974). The prison officials appealed to the United States Supreme Court but were denied certiorari. Remmers v. Brewer, 419 U.S. 1012 (1974).
On April 16, 1975, the prison officials moved in the District Court to reopen the case, vacate the judgment, and dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint, claiming that the new religion was a hoax and the group was actually of a political nature. The plaintiffs moved to hold the defendants in contempt. The Court (Judge William C. Hanson) denied both motions on June 12, 1975, finding that CONS was a religion and that the state had not shown that the prisoners' beliefs were fraudulent or insincere. Remmers v. Brewer, 396 F.Supp. 145 (S.D. Iowa 1975).
Both parties appealed and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Gerald W. Heaney) ruled that a further evidentiary hearing was required on the issue of the plaintiffs' motion to hold the defendants in contempt and remanded that portion of the case. Remmers v. Brewer, 529 F.2d 656 (8th Cir. 1976). The Court of Appeals also remanded the defendants' motion to reopen the case because new affidavits had been filed since the District Court had ruled on the issue. Certiorari was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Remmers v. Brewer, 419 U.S. 1012 (1974).
On post-judgment motions, the District Court (Judge Hanson) held that the record on remand did not present sufficient evidence that the prisoners' beliefs were insincere to warrant overturning the ruling that CONS was entitled to First Amendment protection. Loney v. Scurr, 474 F. Supp. 1186 (S.D. Iowa 1979).
Some 25 years later, on December 16, 2004, the defendants filed a motion seeking relief from the previous injunction, alleging that the Church of New Song was really a white supremacist gang that posed a security threat to the prison. The PACER docket begins on February 7, 2005 with the recording of this motion, so we do not have information about any proceedings in the interim 25 years. However, it appears that the docket number changed several times. On February 24, 2005, the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Ross A. Walters for a report and recommendation. The case was prolonged by several motions for an extended time period to file a response, once on March 21, 2005 by the plaintiffs, and again on April 5, 2005 as the court made its own motion to delay the time for the plaintiffs' response. The plaintiffs moved to substitute parties on March 29, 2005 and, on September 2, 2005, the Court (Judge Robert W. Pratt) scheduled an evidentiary hearing and final pretrial conference. The
This issue was also the subject matter of several subsequent suits, Goff v. Mascher, filed on May 8, 1997 (PC-IA-023); and Voshell v. Spence, filed on September 22, 2003 (PC-IA-022). After a number of hearings and time extensions, the Magistrate Judge issued his report and recommendation, stating that the circumstances had changed and that the CONS was a front for gang-related activity. As such, the Magistrate Judge held that it was no longer equitable to enforce the previous injunction, and recommended that the Court dissolve the injunction. On April 2, 2009, the Court adopted the recommendation and dismissed the case because no objections were made and because they found it to be reasonable.
(Note: There is another litigation by the same name, involving one of the same plaintiffs, but it is unrelated to this one. Remmers v. Brewer, 472 F.2d 52 (8th Cir. 1973)). Stacey Jensen - 06/05/2006
Maurice Youkanna - 07/16/2014