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Goddard v. Alexakos

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

April 17, 2017

CALVIN LEE GODDARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NICK ALEXAKOS, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Inmate Calvin Goddard is confined at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky (FMC-Lexington). Proceeding without counsel, Goddard filed a lawsuit against numerous federal prison officials alleging violations of his constitutional and statutory rights to practice his religion. [R. 1] This matter is now before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss some of Goddard’s claims and also dismiss some of the defendants from the case. The Court will then direct that summons be issued to the remaining defendants so that they can respond to the outstanding claims.

         I.

         According to Goddard, he is a member of “The Way,” which he describes as a non-Protestant Christian religion. [R. 1, 1-1] Goddard claims that while officials at FMC-Lexington allow other religious groups to access and hold their services at the prison’s chapel, the officials have prevented members of The Way from worshipping as a group at the chapel. [R. 1 at 13-14]. While Goddard acknowledges that the prison offers general Christian services, he argues that those services are Protestant in nature, and he repeatedly emphasizes that he is not a Protestant. In fact, throughout Goddard’s complaint and attached exhibits, he goes to great lengths to distinguish his own faith from Protestantism.

         In April 2015, Goddard submitted a request through the prison’s administrative process, formally asking “to no longer be designated in Sentry as Protestant” and requesting that The Way be permitted to hold its own non-Protestant religious service at the prison on Sunday evenings. [R. 1-1 at 2-9]. Goddard also requested “a non-protestant choir, an acceptable time to practice, to have our own guest speakers, [and] to have guest choirs (on occasion),” as well as certain items for the religious services. [R. 1-1 at 9]

         The prison’s Religious Issues Committee met and considered Goddard’s request. [R. 1-1 at 13, 18] In response, a supervisory chaplain and the warden both wrote to Goddard and told him, “The Religious practices described in this request are typically accommodated in the General Christian services, often referred to as Protestant.” [R. 1-1 at 13, 18]. That said, they also indicated that members of The Way could be “accommodated as individual practitioners” who could “procure religious study material” and also “have access to clergy visits from their spiritual leader.” [R. 1-1 at 13, 18]. Finally, the supervisory chaplain and warden informed Goddard that if he “does not wish to be listed in Sentry with a religious preference of ‘Protestant,’ an appropriate alternative could be ‘Other.’” [R. 1-1 at 13, 18].

         Goddard was not satisfied with this response. [R. 1 at 6]. As an initial matter, Goddard appeared to raise some procedural concerns about the Religious Issues Committee’s meeting. [R. 1 at 6]. Goddard also objected to the substance of the response, arguing again that the general Christian services are Protestant in nature and, therefore, inconsistent with his religious beliefs, and that members of The Way should be permitted to worship as a group in the chapel. [R. 1 at 6; R. 1-1 at 16-17, 20].

         After exchanging correspondence with some of the chaplains at the prison, it appears that Goddard at least began to pursue his administrative remedies. Indeed, Goddard attached to his complaint several documents related to a formal administrative review process. [R. 1-1 at 28-48]. During that process, the warden responded to the request for an administrative remedy by telling Goddard, “A review of your request has revealed numerous worship and study times for the General Christian faith tradition which you are part of.” [R. 1-1 at 31]. The warden later said, “Adding another General Christian Service would give General Christian’s substantially more time than other faith groups. A lack of equitability in the allotment of time given to each faith group could lead to a disruption in the smooth orderly running of the institution and cause significant safety concerns.” [R. 1-1 at 31]. Finally, the Warden told Goddard, “If you find the current General Christian worship and study times do not meet your religious needs completely, you may practice your religion as an individual practitioner and may have a Minister of Record.” [R. 1-1 at 31].

         After receiving the warden’s response, it appears that Goddard may have pursued his administrative remedies through the appeals process. Indeed, there are receipts in the record suggesting that Goddard appealed the warden’s response to the Bureau of Prison’s (BOP’s) regional and central offices. [R. 1-1 at 32, 40-42]. However, the record is not altogether clear on this point. That is because the dates and remedy ID numbers on the correspondence between Goddard and prison officials are at times inconsistent. [R. 1-1 at 28-51]. It also appears that the issues in the present matter became intertwined with separate allegations that Goddard may have raised in the past, including a racial discrimination claim related to a Protestant choir at the prison. [R. 1-1 at 35-36, 50-51]. In any event, Goddard claims that he sent multiple forms to numerous prison and law enforcement officials, and he has not received a response to date. [R. 1 at 10].

         Goddard then filed this lawsuit in federal court against numerous prison officials in both their official and individual capacities. Goddard again argues at length that the general Christian services offered at the prison are inconsistent with his religious beliefs and that members of The Way should be permitted to worship as a group in the chapel. [R. 1 at 11-17]. That said, Goddard also briefly states at the end of his complaint that the defendants have recently “begun to retaliate as [he] just filed another BP-9 over the fact the Chapel has refused to allow the Plaintiff and others continued use [of] the Chapel chairs for a Saturday night Bible Study that has gone on for over six years.” [R. 1 at 17] On that point, Goddard alleges that the defendants “have posted a sign on the Chapel door that chairs are for Chapel sponsored events only (though others use them), and asked Officers who work that post to cease opening the Chapel and allow chairs to be used.” [R. 1 at 17].[1]Ultimately, Goddard claims that “[t]he defendants have violated [his] 1st, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights by denying him the right to freely exercise his religion known originally as The Way, (Christianity).” [R. 1 at 17] Goddard also argues that the defendants have run afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and 18 U.S.C. § 1001. [R. 1 at 18] Goddard is seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief, including but not limited to an order that “a service be granted to The Way on Sundays comparable to other religions being allowed two hour services.” [R. 1 at 22]

         This matter is now before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         II.

         The Court will dismiss some of Goddard’s claims and also dismiss some of the defendants from the case. The Court will then direct that summons be issued to the remaining defendants so that they can respond to the outstanding claims.

         As an initial matter, the Court will dismiss Goddard’s claim that the defendants violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Section 1001, of course, is a federal statute that makes it a crime to make false statements to the federal government, and ...


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