District Court: Case May Proceed Against College Official Who Denied Admission To Student After He Expressed Religious Beliefs in Interview
Last year we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Brandon Jenkins, a student who was denied admission to the Radiation Therapy Program at the Community College of Baltimore County (a public college) after he expressed a religious viewpoint during the program’s admissions process.
Because Mr. Jenkins had the academic credentials for admission to the program and received a high score on the other admissions requirements, he inquired as to the reason for his denial. To describe the response he received as surprising would be a gross understatement. It was jaw-dropping, and entirely inexcusable. In the exact words of the program’s director, Mr. Jenkins was told:
“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.” Additionally, Ms. Dougherty stated, “If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process.”
It bears spelling this out: a government school official believed it was entirely appropriate to reject an otherwise-qualified candidate for admission to her program because he had the temerity, when asked in his interview to identify “the most important thing to [him],” to answer honestly, “my God,” and because (apparently, in her estimation) the radiation therapy field is off-limits to anyone for whom religion “is a major part of . . . life.”
The defendants, including the program’s director, asked the court to dismiss the case.
Last Friday, the district court issued an opinion allowing the case to move forward. Agreeing with our arguments, the court correctly recognized that “if it is true that a preference for “nonreligion,” or for “nonreligious” candidates, did actually cause Dougherty to deny Jenkins admission to the RTP, . . . [s]uch a decision would . . . be an unconstitutional preference . . . .”
The ACLJ is pleased that the case will continue and is privileged to pursue its commitment to defending the right of private citizens, like Mr. Jenkins, to express their religious thoughts and beliefs free from resulting hostile and discriminatory treatment by the government.