The ACLJ filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Dustin Buxton against officials of The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) in Maryland for denying Dustin admission to its Radiation Therapy Program due, at least in part, to his expression of his religious beliefs. This is the second lawsuit in five months that the ACLJ has filed against CCBC on behalf of a student who has been denied admission to this program for discriminatory reasons.
Dustin applied to CCBC’s Radiation Therapy Program for the 2013 and 2014 academic years. While he surpassed the standards of a competitive candidate both years, made the Dean’s List in 2013, and even raised his GPA for the 2014 application process, Dustin was nonetheless denied admission to each application. In fact, in the 2014 admission cycle, Dustin was not even granted an interview as he had been in 2013.
During that interview in 2013, Dustin was asked by the CCBC interview panel, “What do you base your morals on?” Dustin replied, “My faith.” His faith was not mentioned again, yet, in a written review of his interview, the Program Director, Adrienne Dougherty, stated that Dustin had lost points because,
[Dustin] also brought up religion a great deal during the interview. Yes, this is a field that involves death and dying; but religion cannot be brought up in the clinic by therapist or students.
Dustin attempted to discuss his denials for admittance with various CCBC officials, including Dean of the School of Health Professions, Carol Eustis, and Charles Martino, Academic Advisor for the Radiation Therapy Program. Although Dean Eustis never returned Dustin’s request for a meeting, Dustin was able to meet with Mr. Martino. While their meeting did not result in Dustin’s admittance to the Program, Mr. Martino did admit that he did not believe that Dustin was denied admission because of his GPA.
In late June of this year, the ACLJ contacted CCBC officials on Dustin’s behalf and recounted the facts surrounding Dustin’s admission processes, and denials, for the 2013 and 2014 school years. We informed CCBC that the conduct of its officials violated the First Amendment and CCBC’s own non-discrimination policy. Before we received a response to our letter, however, we learned that CCBC’s retaliation against Dustin for his expression of his religious beliefs was not yet done. In mid-July, Dustin attempted to register for a CCBC class for the fall semester – a class outside of the Radiation Therapy Program – but was unable to do so due to a hold that had been placed on his account. The hold blocked Dustin from enrolling from any CCBC class effective July 1, 2014, to December 31, 2099. He had been banned from CCBC for the next 85 years.
We immediately contacted CCBC officials again on Dustin’s behalf demanding that this hold be removed. In their response, counsel for CCBC stated that the school’s reason for enacting the hold was that CCBC officials wanted to speak to Dustin about his meeting with Mr. Martino that had occurred in May, but they could not reach him on his telephone because he had changed his number without telling the school. In fact, Dustin has had the same telephone number for the last ten years and never received a call or voicemail from CCBC officials.
Due to the ACLJ’s advocacy, CCBC agreed to, and did, remove the hold from Dustin’s account without further issue. Unfortunately, CCBC officials have yet to admit Dustin to the Radiation Therapy Program.
Our lawsuit requests that the court: state that the defendants’ actions did in fact violate the First Amendment, prohibit all defendants and CCBC officials from further retaliating against Dustin for the expression of his religious beliefs, and require CCBC to immediately admit Dustin to the Radiation Therapy program.
 This is similar to what Ms. Dougherty told our client in our case against CCBC officials filed in April of this year. After Brandon Jenkins responded, “My God”, to a question about what was the most important thing to him and was subsequently denied admission to the Radiation Therapy Program, Ms. Dougherty gave the following explanation:
I understand that religion is a major part of your life and that was evident in your recommendation letters, however, this field is not the place for religion. We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and some who believe in nothing at all. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process.
This article was written by ACLJ Attorney Michelle Terry.
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