Sunday, July 09, 2017

4th Circuit: OK For College To Downgrade Applicant Whose Interview Discussion of Religion Was Inappropriate

In Buxton v. Kurtinitis, (4th Cir., July 7, 2017), the 4th Circuit rejected free speech and Establishment Clause challenges brought by a rejected applicant seeking admission to a Maryland community college radiation therapy program.  The applicant was graded down on his interview score because he brought up the subject of religion often during the interview.  The court concluded:
... the Free Speech Clause does not protect speech expressed in an admissions interview from admissions consequences in a competitive process. Although Buxton argues that this conclusion will open the door to a wide range of discrimination ..., this fear is misplaced. That the Free Speech Clause is not implicated in this narrow context does not open the door to a parade of discriminatory horribles. Several constitutional protections against discrimination remain in full force even in a competitive application and interview process; the Free Speech Clause is simply not one of them.
The court also rejected the applicant's claim that his rejection that was based in part on his discussion of religion violates the Establishment Clause, saying in part:
... it was not Buxton’s religious belief that caused his low interview score, but rather his choice of topic in the interview room that informed the committee’s determination that he lacked interpersonal skills. This determination was “driven in part by a secular purpose,” ... and thus satisfies the first prong of Lemon.