United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM TO PARTIES RE
before the Court are Defendants Daryl McCready, Bryan Matthew
Lloyd, and Mark Aaron Thomas' (collectively, the
“Sonrise Defendants”) and Defendants Michael
Duane Rittenhouse and Jared Mylon Rittenhouse's
(collectively, the “Rittenhouses”) Motions to
Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (ECF Nos. 11,
The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For
the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant the Motions.
February 10, 2017, Plaintiff Redmond Howard, proceeding pro
se, commenced suit against the Sonrise Defendants, alleging
violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(2012). (ECF No. 1). Howard filed an Amended Complaint on
March 29, 2017. (ECF No. 3). On May 2, 2017, Howard filed a
Second Amended Complaint, which added the Rittenhouses as
defendants. (ECF No. 5).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of
a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. “The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
is to test the sufficiency of a complaint, ” not to
“resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of
a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Edwards
v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir.
1999) (quoting Republican Party v. Martin, 980 F.2d
943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992)). A complaint fails to state a claim
if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,
” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not “state a
claim to 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
pleadings, however, are liberally construed and held to a
less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976));
accord Brown v. N.C. Dep't of Corr., 612 F.3d
720, 722 (4th Cir. 2010). Pro se complaints are entitled to
special care to determine whether any possible set of facts
would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). Nonetheless,
“[w]hile pro se complaints may ‘represent the
work of an untutored hand requiring special judicial
solicitude, ' a district court is not required to
recognize ‘obscure or extravagant claims defying the
most concerted efforts to unravel them.'”
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for Balt., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City
of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).
contend that Howard's Second Amended Complaint fails to
state a claim for two principal reasons. First, Howard
fails to allege that any of the Defendants is a state actor,
which is required to bring a civil rights claim under §
1983. Second, assuming Howard intended to bring a claim under
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the
“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq.
(2012), the ADA expressly exempts religious
organizations. Howard has not alleged that any of the
Defendants are otherwise required to comply with the ADA.
1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,
' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating
federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright
v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker
v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). To prevail
on a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate a
violation of constitutional rights or federal law and that
the alleged violation was committed by a “person”
acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citation
omitted). “[T]he under-color-of-state-law element of
§ 1983 excludes from its reach merely private conduct,
no matter how discriminatory or
wrongful.” Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (quoting Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S.
991, 1002 (1982)).
the Second Amended Complaint is devoid of allegations that
any of Defendants acted under the color of state law.
Construing Howard's pleading liberally, sometime in 2016
he apparently attended church services at Sonrise Church, at
which the Sonrise Defendants are “lead pastors.”
(Second Am. Compl. at 1, ECF No. 5). Howard's Second Amended
Complaint implies, but does not expressly state, that the
Rittenhouses are affiliated with a different church, 3CUSA.
(See id. at 1). Howard claims that the Sonrise
Defendants have “not accommodated nor treated
properly” persons with disabilities. (Id. at
3). Howard alleges that Jared Rittenhouse told Howard,
“I treat those with disabilities as if they don't,
” and that Michael Rittenhouse “threatened”
Howard. (Id.). Further, Howard states that
Defendants engaged in “[d]isability, harassment, and
retaliation” forms of discrimination. (Id. at
1). Howard fails to allege, however, that any of
Defendants' conduct implicated the state. Thus, the Court
concludes that Howard has failed to state a § 1983
III of the ADA applies to public accommodations and services
that private entities operate. See 42 U.S.C. §
12181 et seq. Title III prohibits disability-based
discrimination by “any person who owns, leases (or
leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation. 42
U.S.C. § 12182(a). But the ADA expressly exempts from
its requirements “religious organizations or entities
controlled by religious organizations, including places of
worship.” 42 U.S.C. § 12187. Here, Howard alleges
that the Sonrise Defendants are pastors at Sonrise Church-a
place of worship and religious organization. Similarly,
Howard implies that the Rittenhouses are affiliated with
3CUSA-another place of worship and religious organization.
Finally, Howard does not allege that either the Sonrise
Defendants or the Rittenhouses own, lease, or operate a place
of public accommodation. See 42 U.S.C. §
12181(7) (defining “public accommodation”). Thus,
the Court concludes that Howard fails to state an ADA claim.
Accordingly, the Court will grant Defendants' Motions to
on the foregoing reasons, the Sonrise Defendants' Motion
to Strike and Seal ECF Nos. 1-2, 5-2, and 5-3 (ECF No. 13) is
GRANTED. The Court directs the Clerk to STRIKE and SEAL ECF
Nos. 1-2, 5-2, and 5-3. The Sonrise Defendants' and the
Rittenhouses' Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Claim (ECF Nos. 11, 12) are GRANTED. The Complaint is
DISMISSED. Howard's Motion for a More Definite Statement
(ECF No. 22), Motion for Failure to Properly Support or
Address a Fact (ECF No. 29), and Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 32) are DENIED AS MOOT.
the informal nature of this memorandum, it shall constitute
an Order of this Court, and the Clerk is directed to docket
it accordingly, CLOSE this case, ...