of comprehensiveness and the existence of fundamental and ultimate ideas. Traditionally, "[A] religion is not generally confined to one question or one moral teaching; it has a broader scope. It lays claim to an ultimate and comprehensive 'truth'". 662 F.2d at 1035, quoting Malnak, 592 F.2d at 209. In Malnak v. Yogi, the Science of Creative Intelligence was found to be a religion for purpose of the establishment clause "in part because of its comprehensive nature; its teachings consciously aimed at providing the answers to 'questions concerning the nature both of the world and man; the underlying sustaining force of the universe, and the way to unlimited happiness." 662 F.2d at 1035, quoting Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F.2d at 213. If a philosophy lacks ideas of this nature, as the court has concluded that the philosophy of the Church of Saint Dennis does, it is difficult for it to meet the requisite standard of comprehensiveness.
In contrast to the Science of Creative Intelligence discussed in Malnak, the Third Circuit concluded in Africa v. Pennsylvania that MOVE espoused a single governing idea which the court described as philosophical naturalism; "[little] more of substance" could be identified in the ideology. The court found that the "dietary concerns" of the MOVE plaintiff did not constitute '"a comprehensive belief system'". Id. at 1035.
As indicated previously, the main characteristics of the religion professed by the plaintiffs in the instant case are an avowed belief in a naturalistic all-pervasive force uniting all living things and a belief in the primacy of the individual conscience. "Little more of substance" can be identified here.
Moreover, the two beliefs of the Church appear to exist without any connection with each other. The belief in the individual conscience, or even the simple moral code espoused by the Church, does not appear to flow inevitably from the nature of the Spirit of Life, nor has any exegesis been provided by the plaintiffs. In describing the comprehensiveness criterion, the Third Circuit stated in Africa v. Pennsylvania, that "a religion must consist of something more than a number of isolated unconnected ideas." Id.
Finally, it is difficult to envision how the Church can promulgate an "ultimate and comprehensive truth" or how a "shared world view" can exist when each individual is made the arbiter of his own truth. The adherents of a given religion can generally be identified by certain shared beliefs. As indicated previously, a common belief in the worth of all beliefs, while certainly an admirable philosophy, cannot be said to provide a common spiritual ground.
The court concludes that the Church of Saint Dennis fails to meet the second criterion, because it lacks the comprehensiveness, cohesiveness and commonality of beliefs characteristic of accepted religions.
"Neither the trappings of robes, nor temples of stone, nor a fixed liturgy, nor an extensive literature or history is required to meet the test of beliefs cognizable under the Constitution as religious." Stevens v. Berger, 428 F. Supp. 896, 900 (E.D.N.Y. 1977), quoted in Africa v. Pennsylvania, 662 F.2d at 1036 n.21. Thus, a belief system which otherwise demonstrates characteristics analogous to those of accepted religions may not be declared non-religious in nature solely because the outward signs of religion are missing. 662 F.2d at 1036 n.21. Nevertheless, the existence of such indicia as "formal services, ceremonial functions, the existence of clergy, structure and organization, efforts at propagation, observance of holidays and other similar manifestations associated with the traditional religions" may be considered in determining whether the beliefs professed are religious in nature. 662 F.2d at 1035.
Like the MOVE organization described in Africa v. Pennsylvania, the Church of Saint Dennis is characterized by few of the formal identifying marks common to most recognized religions. Meetings of church members are not marked by special prayer or other rituals.
There is conflicting evidence on whether there is an effort to proselytize at the meetings of the Church. Plaintiff Jacques testified that the purpose of such meetings was to discuss the individual beliefs of those attending in order to reconcile the beliefs with those of the plaintiffs. This testimony is somewhat inconsistent with other testimony and D-2 which emphasizes the belief "that each individual is free to make his peace with honor, worship or pay homage to the Spirit of Life in any manner dictated by his conscience and relationship with the Spirit of Life . . .". The purpose of the Church meetings is portrayed in D-2 as helping prisoners to integrate their beliefs into their daily lives. The court concludes that the primary purpose of Church meetings is for discussion and prisoner self-help and not for propagation of the doctrines of the Church. There are also no formal ceremonies to mark one's initiation into Church membership or other formal ceremonies related to the professed beliefs of the Church. (Cf. the "puja" ceremony required of a practitioner of the Science of Creative Intelligence as discussed in Malnak v. Yogi.)
Although both plaintiffs have been ordained as ministers by the Universal Life Church of California, that ordination was obtained by the simple act of ordering through the mail, and paying for, an ordination certificate. Plaintiffs undertook no special study or spiritual preparation to prepare them for their roles as religious leaders. Plaintiff Steo testified that a minister was required to be a decent human being. Plaintiff Jacques testified that a minister of the Church must adhere to the beliefs of the Church. It is not clear what special duties or responsibilities plaintiffs have assumed within the Church as a result of their ordination.
Other than the descriptive pamphlet D-2, the Church has no holy book, scripture of liturgy. The Church does celebrate June 21st as a religious holiday and certain dietary restrictions are imposed on that day. On the whole, however, the court concludes that the Church "lacks the defining structural characteristics of a traditional religion." 662 F.2d at 1036.
Based on its examination of the tenets and characteristics of the Church of Saint Dennis in light of the criteria set forth in Africa v. Pennsylvania, the court concludes that the beliefs professed by the plaintiffs do not rise to the level of a religion which is entitled to the protection of the first amendment. Since this conclusion is itself fatal to the plaintiffs' case, there is no need to submit the question of sincerity of the plaintiffs' belief to a second jury. The court also does not reach the question of whether a legitimate and reasonably exercised state interest justifies the restrictions placed on plaintiffs' activities. See Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822, 41 L. Ed. 2d 495, 94 S. Ct. 2800 (1974).
Accordingly, the motion of the defendants for dismissal of the complaint will be granted. Counsel for defendants is directed to submit an order in accordance with this opinion.