United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CHRISTOPHER E. KOCH, Plaintiff,
JOHN CARLISLE, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
BERNARD M. JONES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Christopher E. Koch, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in
forma pauperis, has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 seeking redress for alleged violations of his religious
rights. Chief United States District Judge Joe Heaton has
referred the matter for proposed findings and recommendations
consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C).
Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
[Doc. No. 22]. Plaintiff has responded to the Motion.
See Plaintiff's Response [Doc. No. 25]. For the
reasons set forth below, it is recommended that
Defendants' Motion be denied.
is a state prisoner confined at the Lawton Correctional
Facility (LCF), a private prison operated by a corporation
pursuant to a contract with the Oklahoma Department of
Corrections. Compl. 1 [Doc. No. 1]. Plaintiff alleges that he is
“a faithful and reliable member of the Satanic
faith” and has been for many years. Id. at 3,
6. According to Plaintiff, Defendant John Carlisle, the LCF
Chaplain, and Defendant Hector Rios, the LCF Warden, were
responsible for the religious activities at LCF and both
willfully and arbitrarily denied him the right to worship and
participate in the ceremonies of the “Festival of the
Winter Solstice.” Id. at 3.
October 15, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a request for the
“Satanic / Left Hand Path Faith” to worship and
participate in the Festival of the Winter Solstice.
Id. at Ex. 3. On November 5, 2014, Defendant Carlisle
responded to the request by stating: “Every religious
group on this facility must celebrate their religious
ceremonies on their designated nights, you are no exception.
You need to celebrate it on Dec. 17th or
24th. Let me know.” Id. at 7, Ex.
outcome was untenable to Plaintiff. According to him,
“altering the date of the rite is not in accordance
with the event in the lunar cycle.” Id. at Ex.
4. Further, in a grievance related to a separate holiday
attached to his Complaint, Plaintiff contends: “[A]ll
my religious holidays fall under the ‘lunar cycle'
and to be held on the day/it is to be observed, not whenever
it is convenient, to do so would be a blasphemy against my
faith and my God.” Id. at Ex. 17. In response,
Plaintiff filed a grievance to Defendant Rios on November 10,
2014, asserting that Defendant Carlisle's decision was
not in accordance with Department of Corrections policy.
Id. at 7, Ex. 4. Plaintiff specifically requested
that he be allowed to have his religious festival on its
proper day and that “altering the date of the rite is
not in accordance with the event in the lunar cycle.”
Id. at Ex. 4. Defendant Rios' response was:
Your grievance has been reviewed. Your allotted religious day
is Wednesday of every week. You must use one of the two days
given by the chaplain (December 17th or
24th). With all the other events going on during
that time frame, you must concede to the safety and security
of the facility. The facility is also doing visitation on the
21st of December which will preclude staff from
observing your festivities.
Id. at Ex. 5. Plaintiff appealed this decision to
the Administrative Review Authority (ARA), stating that the
festival occurs between 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and
visitation ends at 4:00 p.m. Id. at 7-8, Ex.
The ARA denied Plaintiff's appeal on the basis that
Plaintiff did not substantiate his appeal with argument or
authority. Id. at 8, Ex. 7. This lawsuit followed.
Standard of Review
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Gee v.
Pacheco, 627 F.3d 1178, 1184 (10th Cir. 2010).
“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of
the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to
legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is
not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might
present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's
complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for
which relief may be granted.” Miller v. Glanz,
948 F.2d 1562, 1565 (10th Cir. 1991).
se plaintiffs complaint must be broadly construed under the
Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). The generous construction to be given the pro se
litigant's allegations “does not relieve the
plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which
a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). The court
“will not supply additional factual allegations to
round out a plaintiffs complaint or construct a legal theory
on a plaintiffs behalf.” Whitney v. New
Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).
brings four claims emanating from the same set of
facts-Defendants Carlisle and Rios jointly prohibited
Plaintiff from reserving a visitation room to celebrate the
Festival of the Winter Solstice on December 21, 2014, the
date on which the holiday is celebrated by followers of the
Satanic Bible. Plaintiff contends such act willfully and
arbitrarily deprived him of the following rights:
• The right to freedom of religion as protected by the
Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution;
• The right to freedom of religion as protected by the
Free Exercise clauses in the United ...