A prospective student at the Community College of Baltimore County sued school officials in federal court this week, contending that he was denied admission to an academic program based on an expression of his religious beliefs.
Brandon Jenkins, who is being represented by the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, said in the lawsuit that when asked what was most important to him during an interview with CCBC officials as part of the application process last spring, he responded: "My God."
Shortly afterward, he was denied admission into the radiation therapy program, and he asked the program coordinator for an explanation in an email.
The program director, in an email included in the lawsuit's exhibits, wrote that other applicants had higher grade-point averages and that there were "other reasons" why he did not make it in.
"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," wrote program director Adrienne Dougherty. "We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and some who believe in nothing. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process."
CCBC spokeswoman Hope Davis declined to comment on the pending litigation but said the college is committed to diversity.
"We have so many people from so many different backgrounds and so many different cultures," she said. "Just to think that we would discriminate based on religion ... it's just not something that we do."
A response from CCBC's attorney Peter S. Saucier, also included in the exhibits, said the school seeks applicants "motivated by an individual passion in the field" and that Jenkins' statement that he was pursuing the program at the behest of God or others "was not a good answer."
In the letter, CCBC's lawyer also pointed out that Jenkins has a criminal record that includes drug and theft charges. The lawyer said CCBC officials told Jenkins that he would have difficulty finding a job in Maryland because of his background. He had said during his interview that he wanted to stay in Maryland.
Davis said the two-year radiation therapy program is small, with about two dozen students.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of Maryland because it claims a First Amendment violation, seeks unspecified damages and an injunction requiring that he be admitted into the program.