ACLJ Seeks Rehearing of Court Decision Denying First Amendment Protection to Student Religious Speech | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

ACLJ Profile Completion

Verified

ACLJ Seeks Rehearing for First Amendment Protection

By Carly F. Gammill1500927821551

In an opinion that is perhaps best described as both remarkable and confounding, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently held that “the Free Speech Clause has no application in the context of speech expressed in a competitive interview.” In other words, at least in the Fourth Circuit, any applicant for any governmental position can be retaliated against based solely on an opinion uttered in an interview that the interviewer doesn’t like. Because this holding is completely out of step with established law, on Friday we filed a petition asking the entire Fourth Circuit (as opposed to the panel of three judges who issued the opinion) to consider the issue and correct this egregious legal error.

The decision was issued in our lawsuit on behalf of Dustin Buxton, an applicant to the Radiation Therapy Program at the Community College of Baltimore County, about whom we have previously written. Although Mr. Buxton alleged that he lost points, and was ultimately denied admission to the program, because of a single statement he made during the admissions interview process – answering, in response to the interviewers’ direct question, that he bases his morals on his faith – the Fourth Circuit panel, astonishingly, concluded that his private speech was afforded no protection by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, even against blatant viewpoint discrimination – i.e., governmental imposition of special burdens or prohibitions on speech deemed disagreeable.

As we explained in our petition for rehearing, because the panel’s decision “grants the government unfettered discretion to ferret out applicants for no other reason than their expression of disfavored views,” the full court must hear the matter and remedy this mistaken ruling. Otherwise, any applicant for any governmental position can be retaliated against based solely on an opinion uttered in an interview that the interviewer doesn’t like, with no recourse.

For example, a county clerk applicant, whose job duties have absolutely nothing at all to do with firearms, could be denied the job solely because, during the job interview, she expressed an opinion favoring gun rights. Or a student applying to a public law school could be denied admission because he made a statement during the interview indicating he opposes abortion. Or an applicant seeking a public law enforcement position could be penalized based on a statement expressing his views on climate change.

While those seeking to fill competitive positions must certainly be able to consider what an applicant says in interviewing for the role in order to select the most qualified candidates, such consideration must bear some rational relationship to governmental functions in the position at issue. As the foregoing examples indicate, the panel’s decision imposes no such limitation on the discretion of governmental decision-makers. Rather, it opens the door to one of the very evils against which the Free Speech Clause is intended to protect – the government’s ability to effectively silence certain speakers and eliminate certain ideas and viewpoints from the marketplace.

Stop Anti-Christian Discrimination

Religious Liberty  Signatures

LOGIN

Receive the latest news, updates, and contribution opportunities from ACLJ.

$20
$40
$60
$120
$240
Make this a monthly tax-deductible gift.

We’re in court to stop anti-Christian discrimination on campus. Join us with your tax-deductible gift.

Email Address is required.
First Name is required.
Last Name is required.
Credit Card Number is required.
Verification Code is required.
Expiration Month is required.
Expiration Year is required.
Save this card for future donations.
Enter a password to create an account or login to ACLJ.org‏ (Not Required)
Receive the latest news, updates, and contribution opportunities from ACLJ.


Please encourage your friends to sign and donate by sharing this petition.

The Left Attacks Christian Judicial Nominees

By Jay Sekulow1504880005237

Two leftist Senators just attacked one of President Trump’s judicial nominees because she is a Christian. This is anti-Christian bigotry. The message of the Left is clear: Christians need not apply. This behavior was unacceptable in 1776, and it is unconstitutional today. Being a Christian should...

read more

Angry Atheist's Outlandish Attack

By Skip Ash1502292667647

So you thought you heard it all from the angry atheist, anti-Christian extremists led by Mikey Weinstein and the absurdly named Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) – think again. This time they are ludicrously claiming that a leadership conference that includes executives from Facebook and...

read more

Big Win for Religious Liberty at Supreme Court

By Walter M. Weber1498512368363

The U.S. Supreme Court today, by a solid 7-2 vote, delivered a resounding victory for religious liberty. The case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer , asked whether a state could exclude a church from a child safety program solely because it is a church. The Court said "No". The ACLJ had filed a...

read more

Religious Liberty Win at Supreme Court

By Walter M. Weber1496847588500

Even very technical legal issues sometimes can have important implications for the protection of religious freedom for all in the United States. That was the case in a recent Supreme Court ruling over retirement plans. Religiously affiliated hospital systems won a reprieve from multi-billion dollar...

read more