Monday, March 23, 2015

College Admission Denial Because of Religious References In Interview Supports Establishment Clause Claim

In Jenkins v. Kurtinitis, (D MD, March 20, 2015), a Maryland federal district court permitted an unsuccessful applicant to a community college radiation therapy program to move ahead with his Establishment Clause claim, while dismissing his free speech and state free exercise claims. Plaintiff Brandon Jenkins claimed that the program director Adrienne Dougherty denied him admission to the program in part because during his interview in answering a question about the thing most important to him, Jenkins replied "My God."  In an e-mail to Jenkins, Dougherty told him that "this field is not the place for religion."  The court held that:
Jenkins has alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief [under the Establishment Clause] because, given the posture of the case, I cannot determine whether defendants acted with an impermissible [religious] purpose.
However, rejecting Jenkins' free expression claim, the court said in part:
the Free Speech Clause does not protect speech expressed in an admissions interview from admissions consequences in a competitive process....