Courts Crack Down on “Creativity” Religion’s Creative Requests
Background Regarding Creativity
There are inmates across the country who claim to be part of “The Church of the Creator,” which they say “embraces and espouses the religion of Creativity.” These inmates claim the “overriding mission of the Church and the Creativity religion is the permanent prevention of the cultural, genetic, and biological genocide of the White Race worldwide and thus the achievement of White racial immortality.” One of the central tenets of Creativity is that “Good is personified by the White Race and the crusade for its future[,] while evil is personified by its antithesis in this world, the Jewish Race.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons and several state prisons have designated Creativity a security threat group (STG), because inmates following its tenets have engaged in acts of violence, including murdering other inmates and instigating race riots.
Inmates claiming to adhere to Creativity have made numerous requests at their respective prisons, including requests for literature they claim is religious and Kosher meals. Despite calling for the eradication of the Jewish faith, they claim Kosher meals are the closest alternative to the “fruitarian” organic diet that they claim is part of their religion.
It might seem obvious that these claims should be denied. However, inmates have sued prison officials claiming they violated their religious rights under the First Amendment and federal religious laws, and that this is unlawful discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause. Fortunately, courts have been dismissing these lawsuits, finding that Creativity does not have characteristics of a religion, and reasonable prison officials would not have reason to believe that they are violating religious rights when they deny these inmate requests. Below are two recent examples.
10th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Matthew Hale’s Lawsuit
Inmate Matthew Hale claims he is a minister for Creativity and is currently incarcerated at the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado. He is serving a forty-year sentence for obstructing justice and soliciting the murder of a federal judge who entered a judgment against the church’s predecessor.
In January of this year, in Hale v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 18-1141, 2019 WL 117616, at *1 (10th Cir. Jan. 7, 2019), the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Hale’s First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act claims based, in part, on the finding that Creativity did not qualify as a religion, and even if it did, the Bureau of Prisons had compelling and narrowly tailored interests in restricting plaintiff’s rights.
Hale sued after the BOP put restrictions on his mail, denied him a religious meal request, denied request access to certain literature, and prevented him for being interviewed by a television outlet.
In evaluating whether Creativity was a religion, the Tenth Circuit found that 1) “instead of addressing existential, teleological, or cosmological matters, Creativity presents only a singular concern of racial dominance, framed in terms of social, political, and ideological struggles”; 2) it was undisputed that Creativity was not metaphysical; 3) the “unidimensional focus on racial hegemony, designed to benefit the individual adherents of Creativity, as well as the overall group of adherents, is inconsistent with a binary system of morals and ethics,” and 4) Creativity thus lacks a comprehensive belief system.
Therefore, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Hale’s claims because Creativity did not espouse beliefs that were religious in nature.
Eastern District of California Dismisses Michael Todd’s Lawsuit
Michael Todd is an inmate incarcerated by the California Department of Corrections Rehabilitation (“CDCR”). Todd sued numerous CDCR prison officials for not giving him a Kosher Meal and confiscating materials from his cell, which he claimed were religious.
The District Court dismissed Todd’s lawsuit on several grounds. One of these grounds was qualified immunity, whereby state officials are immune from liability if it would not be clear to a reasonable official that their actions were unlawful.
The District Court found that prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity because there was no clearly established law that Creativity invoked “constitutionally cognizable religious interests.” In other words, it was not clear that Creativity was a religion protected by the First Amendment. The Court noted that there have been no cases that have held that Creativity was a religion, and in fact, many courts have found the opposite—that it is a front for a religious/white supremacist hate group. Therefore, the Court held that no reasonable prison official would have understood that his or her actions violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and dismissed the Plaintiff’s case.
Qualified immunity provides a particularly helpful defense in these types of cases because it allows prison officials immunity for challenging questions about what is a religion.
Todd has appealed, and the matter is currently pending before the Ninth Circuit. (Burke Williams & Sorensen, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, are representing Defendants in the matter).
Inmates do not lose their religious rights when they go to prison. In addition to being constitutionally protected, there are many benefits to allowing inmates to continue to practice their religion in prison.
However, inmates should not be permitted to use religion as a front for dangerous activity or frivolous requests, and prison officials should not be held liable for denying these requests. This is especially true when it is not clear whether an inmate’s claimed beliefs are religions and instead appear to be a guise for a racist hate group.