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The Americans, A Canadian's opinion [WeirdDave] | Main | Saturday Gardening Thread: ToMAYto, ToMAHto Edition [Y-not and WeirdDave]
April 26, 2014

Political Thread for Saturday Morning: Is This Religious Discrimination Or Not? [Y-not]

For those of you who want to talk politics, here's a story that should generate some discussion, courtesy of @Will_Antonin's tweeter feed:

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."

Make sure to read the whole article (which is short) at The Baltimore Sun.

I had an nice exchange with Will via Twitter. (You should follow him, btw.) His take in his original tweet about this was that the applicant was rejected because of his Christianity.

The interesting thing is that no where in that article does the student say he's a Christian. He may very well be, but it's not mentioned. I think we've all become so irritated by the double-standard the PC police are applying to Christians versus the Religion of Peace, that sometimes we see anti-Christian bias when it does not exist.

Secondly, when you read the Baltimore Sun article, you find out that the applicant had several factors weighing against his admission to what is a competitive program with limited available slots. Per the admissions officer, his grades were weaker than other applicants' and his criminal record (for drug and theft offenses) would render it difficult for him to land a job in the state of Maryland, his chosen state for future employment.

The program director does also mention the applicant's references to his religion during the interview as being a factor:

"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."

In my opinion, that was very sloppy by the program director -- and unnecessary. They appeared to have other more solid grounds for rejecting his application. (Unsurprisingly, the statement by the college's lawyer was significantly better. See the article for that.)

I thought it was noteworthy that the admissions officer was far more careful about how he addressed the criminal record. There it was made clear that it was the job placement difficulties that were the primary concern, rather than the criminal record itself. (I *think* it may be illegal to discriminate based on a person's past criminal record (for non-bonded positions), but I could be wrong about that.) Why is that relevant? Well in many academic fields, programs are ranked based on their job placement statistics, so it's certainly relevant to the community college that they admit employable students.

So the question is, is this a case of a Christian being rejected for being a Christian? My hunch is that it isn't. The college appeared to be reacting to this applicant's behavior during the interview. It's hard to tell based on what we're told in this article, but my take is that this applicant was unable to navigate through the interview process without drifting into something verging on proselytization. It's fine to be motivated by your religious convictions, but when you are vying for admission to a professional degree program, it's important to be able to communicate your professional motivations for doing so. Being able to interact effectively with people in a purely professional plane is important.

Just my two cents. YMMV.

Open thread.

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posted by Open Blogger at 11:17 AM

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