Archive for Religion

More on religious discrimination suit against CCBC


Yesterday, I wrote about the lawsuit filed against the Community College of Baltimore County by the ACLJ on behalf of Brandon Jenkins, a prospective radiation therapy student. The suit alleges that Jenkins was discriminated against due to his expression of his religious beliefs.

The individuals named in the suit include President Sandra Kurtinitis of CCBC, Vice President of Instruction Mark McColloch, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Richard Lilley, and Adrienne Dougherty, who I mentioned yesterday is the Program Director and Coordinator of Radiation Therapy.

From the complaint:

CCBC’s admission policy to the Radiation Therapy program is based on a three-part point system with the following weighted areas: (1) Prerequisite GPA – 30%; (2) Interview & Observation Day – 40%; and (3) Writing Sample and Critical Thinking Exam – 30%.

The complaint notes that, at the time of his interview, Jenkins was Director of Harvest House, Inc., “a faith-based home for
men working to overcome life-controlling problems.”

The complaint notes that nothing was said to Jenkins at the interview about his response about God and he later learned he was rejected for admission to the program.

The complaint says that:

This came as a surprise to Mr. Jenkins because his overall GPA exceeded the standards of a “competitive candidate” for the program, as described in CCBC’s admissions catalog. In addition, Mr. Jenkins had received the maximum points allowed on the observation
portion of the interview day (which consisted of 40% of his overall score for admission)

Dougherty responded to Jenkins when he asked why he was rejected:

34. Specifically, Defendant Dougherty explained that while Mr. Jenkins’s grades were good, “there were other students who had higher GPA scores, which [accounts for] 30% of the evaluation process.” See Exhibit A.
35. Defendant Dougherty then listed the reasons why Mr. Jenkins lost points during his interview, offering the following explanation:
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. We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and  some who believe in nothing at all. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process.

Another reason Dougherty reportedly told Jenkins he was rejected was because he wanted to stay in Maryland.

Also from the complaint:

Defendant Dougherty’s reasoning was somewhat puzzling to Mr. Jenkins because, although Defendant Dougherty referred to aspects of Mr. Jenkins’s past that she felt might make it difficult for him to gain employment in Maryland, neither these areas of his past nor Mr. Jenkins’s willingness to work outside the State of Maryland following completion of the Radiation Therapy Program were raised in his admissions interview. Instead, during the interview, Mr. Jenkins was asked only if he preferred to stay in Maryland after school, to which he simply replied, “Yes.”

You may hear in the future that Jenkins has a criminal record and that had something to do with why he was rejected.

From the complaint:

40. Defendant Dougherty’s reasoning is also inconsistent with prior communications Mr. Jenkins had with her.

41. Early in the admission process, and prior to Mr. Jenkins’s submission of his application to the Radiation Therapy Program, Mr. Jenkins had specifically inquired of Defendant Dougherty whether a single criminal charge he received more than ten (10) years ago would interfere with his ability to obtain a job following completion of the Radiation Therapy Program.

42. Defendant Dougherty assured Mr. Jenkins that a former student of the Radiation Therapy Program had successfully obtained a job in Washington, D.C., despite his criminal record.

43. At that time, Defendant Dougherty further assured Mr. Jenkins that any uncertainty regarding his ability to obtain a job in Maryland would not be a reason not to accept him into the program.

I have not been able to find what exactly the criminal charge was. Regardless of what it might be, the facts presented in the complaint are troubling.

I talked to one attorney who had the following to say about the suit and some of the new facts above.

Apparently his grades and record, if true, did not stop him from getting an interview.

Even poor workers and students have a right not to face religious discrimination, particularly with specific intent

Specifically, the attorney I talked to said the following about the criminal record:

The college will raise that at trial, but I don’t see that going anywhere

Another thing to note: In addition to state funding, CCBC gets $46.7 million, or about 17 percent of its total funding, from Baltimore County.

Here’s the full complaint that ACLJ filed:

14 04 09 Jenkins Complaint

Community College of Baltimore County sued for religious discrimination


The ACLJ reports that they have sued the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) on behalf of Brandon Jenkins. Jenkins was denied admission to CCBC’s radiation therapy program.

 As one faculty member explained to Brandon, on behalf of CCBC, the “field [of radiation therapy] is not the place for religion.”

Brandon first applied for admission to the Radiation Therapy Program in April 2013. He met the standards of a competitive candidate and scored the maximum points allowed during his observation. During the interview process, college officials asked Brandon, “What is the most important thing to you.” Brandon answered simply, “My God.”

The ACLJ report notes that Jenkins received the following response from Adrienne Dougherty, the program director, about the denial of admission to the program:

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. We have many patients who come to us for treatment from many different religions and some who believe in nothing at all. If you interview in the future, you may want to leave your thoughts and beliefs out of the interview process.

Dougherty also apparently works at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) on the Radiation Oncology Team.

According to the ACLJ report, Jenkins attempted to address those issues and was rebuffed. Additionally:

In response to a letter from the ACLJ outlining CCBC’s retaliation, CCBC defended Director Dougherty’s comments to Mr. Jenkins suggesting that such comments were merely intended to advise Brandon that “he not wear them [his religious beliefs] on his sleeve,” and “[s]tated bluntly, that is not bad advice.”

More on the details:

Nonetheless, despite persistent denial by CCBC of unfair treatment, CCBC acknowledges that Brandon lost points during the interview process because Brandon allegedly stated that he was pursuing a career in radiation therapy at the behest of God. This, CCBC asserts, was not “the best answer.” CCBC further stated, “[c]andidates who describe thoughtful considerations about what the candidate will contribute as an individual to patients and the advancement of care make far better therapists than those who are told by others [God] to pursue the field. . . the fact is that in any secular job or program interview it is better to have a concrete reason for wanting to undertake the training at hand than to say only that God directed one to do it.”

The ACLJ filed the suit in federal court and they are seeking an injunction to require CCBC to admit Jenkins to the program. The suit, which names multiple CCBC officials as defendants, “requests the court to declare that the actions taken by CCBC officials violated Brandon’s First Amendment rights and that defendants be prohibited from further retaliating and/or discriminating against Brandon based on his religious views and/or his expressions thereof.”

It might be good advice to not advertise your religious beliefs so overtly in a situation like this where you might face discrimination. However, it’s also dumb for the school officials to so openly point out that they appeared to be discriminating against him because he expressed those beliefs.

Catholic candidate for MD Governor supports physician-assisted suicide


Long-shot Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur has come out in favor of physician-assisted suicide.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

“If terminally ill, mentally competent adults choose to end their life, they should be able to seek a life-ending dose of medicine from their physician,” Mizeur said in a policy proposal released late Tuesday.

Three states — Oregon, Washington, and Vermont — have similar policies, dubbed by advocates “Death with Dignity” laws.

Mizeur, a Democrat from Montgomery County, outlined her call for legalization of doctor-assisted suicide along with ideas to help seniors as they retire, age, get sick and approach death.

Here’s what F. Michael Gloth, III, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Outpatient Services
in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins, has written on physician-assisted suicide:

Catholic teaching condemns physician-assisted suicide because it, like murder, involves taking an innocent human life…

Policy makers and the public are not always receptive to appeals to Catholic moral teaching. Fortunately, well-established principles of medicine and bioethics provide sound and abundant grounds for opposing physician-assisted suicide.

McGloth goes on to discuss many of the medical reasons to oppose physician-assisted suicide. He also points out that both the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians oppose the practice.

McGloth closes with this:

There is, of course, a final reason to advocate for physician-assisted suicide. It is cheaper to kill a person than to provide care. Yet a physician’s first obligation is to “Do No Harm.” Until that is replaced with “Save more money,” it will be difficult to support physician-assisted suicide.

It’s not like anyone pro-life would be supporting Mizeur anyway, but this announcement reinforces the fact that the Democratic gubernatorial field is hostile to the protection of human life in Maryland.

Mizeur has been endorsed by Emily’s List in the race for Governor and in previous bids for office. Her gubernatorial campaign has also been endorsed by the Maryland National Organization for Women PAC – in part because of her position on abortion.

In 2006 Mizeur said:

I fully support a woman’s right to choice and reproductive freedom.

Mizeur has served as a volunteer advisor to Community Clinic, Inc.  which offers family planning services, which may or may not include abortion referrals. In 2011, she received the Choice Advocate Award from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and in other election years she consistently has received 100% ratings from the group.

Her current campaign website makes little mention of the issue other than saying she was behind the Family Planning Works Act which she says will reduce abortions (Not that we will ever find out for sure since the State of Maryland no longer tracks abortion-related statistics.)

Mizeur’s position on same-sex marriage  (including her own marriage to another woman) is also another place she goes against church teachings.

Mizeur’s campaign biographies in the past have noted that she is Catholic and attends St. Aloysius, which she referred to once as a “progressive Jesuit parish.” She was named to a list of 12 Catholic Women Under 40 Making A Difference by National Catholic Reporter, a source that even USA Today referred to as a liberal outlet. Her current campaign biography makes no mention of her faith.

In 1998, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops noted that:

“Catholics who are privileged to serve in public leadership positions have an obligation to place their faith at the heart of their public service, particularly on issues regarding the sanctity and dignity of human life.” (12) They then declared: “We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from the Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public office and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching“. Concluding this passage they then solemnly proclaimed: “No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can reasonably advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life…. no appeal to policy, procedure, majority will or pluralism ever excuses a public official from defending life to the greatest extent possible”.  [emphasis added]

There have been some, including bishops with the authority to do something about it , who have argued that Catholics in public office who support abortion (or physician-assisted suicide) should be excommunicated or denied communion. I won’t sidetrack this discussion by delving into the debate debate right now.

I will just echo the above sentiments from the USCCB, especially the statement calling on public officials “to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public office and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching.”

Why I’m Not Celebrating the Death of Fred Phelps

matthew-snyderMatthew Snyder (left) from Westminster, Maryland is one of the reasons I’m not celebrating today after hearing the news of the death of Fred Phelps. Snyder died in an accident in Anbar province in Iraq back in 2006. Westboro Baptist Church picketed his funeral shortly thereafter.

One reason I am not celebrating the death of Fred Phelps is because everyone who fought and died (or otherwise served) wearing the uniform of the United States military swore or affirmed an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

I took that oath on July 3, 1996.

Much blood has been spilled in defending the rights of Americans that are protected by the Constitution.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Westboro’s picketing of funerals (specifically Snyder’s) merited “special protection” under the First Amendment. I wasn’t a fan of that ruling even though I understand why it was made. No matter how disgusting or abhorrent someone else’s speech is to you, they have free speech rights. In fact, that is the speech most in need of protection. I found what Westboro did to be disgusting and abhorrent personally, but I didn’t ultimately think they’d lose in court, because of the First Amendment.  Of course, taking that to its end means anyone jubilant about the death of Fred Phelps has that right too – I’m not looking to change that either.

If you are celebrating today because you lost buddies or relatives in recent wars, especially if their funerals were picketed by Westboro, I can understand your feelings even if I don’t agree with them or endorse them myself. I would encourage you to focus more on the memory of those who were lost instead of concerning yourself with celebrating the death of Fred Phelps. I am sure most of you are already doing the things Mr. Trebilcock says below in the comments below Al Snyder’s.

Think about what Al Snyder, the father of Matthew Snyder had to say in the past few days before Phelps died:

“I do not like Westboro Baptist Church; I don’t have anything nice to say about them, but if I had anything bad to say about them at this time — or if he dies — it would put me in the same category as him, and I don’t want to be in that category,” he said. “I don’t like hate.”

Also, think about what Al Snyder had to say this week if you’re approvingly talking about people picketing Phelps’ grave:

“I believe he has the same rights as everybody else should have, that he should be buried in peace,” Al Snyder told Military Times on Tuesday. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Here’s what Tom Trebilcock, an Army Reservist who was Mr. Snyder’s attorney also had to say:

“If somebody feels the need to get back at the Phelps group, support the wounded warrior groups,” he said. “That’s one reason why I and attorney [Sean] Summers, we took up the case in the first place. We’re both Army reservists. It wasn’t out of any hatred to the Phelps clan or the Westboro Baptist Church. We just wanted to take care of the families of people who went over and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Al Snyder, who is also gay, sets a good example in his words above. He has plenty of reasons to be leading the cheers over the death of Fred Phelps, but he isn’t.

The other reason I’m not celebrating the death of Fred Phelps is because I’m a Christian. I’m a sinner as we all are, including Phelps.  For more eloquent words from a Christian perspective than I can write here, please read Ed Stetzer’s response. Stezter has been picketed by Westboro as well.

A few years ago (before I became Catholic), I probably would have been celebrating the Phelps death and making jokes about picketing his funeral too. I made jokes about inappropriate responses to Westboro showing up at funerals. Taking the high road can be difficult, but it’s better than getting yourself wrapped up in the same hate you’d be responding to.

When Stetzer was picketed, here’s part of what he said:

Our answer to offensive signs was to show and share the love of Christ with anyone in need. Whether speaking to the protestors, counter protestors, or the media, we were prepared to speak about what God is doing in our community… The last thing we have time to do is shut down because five people show up with offensive signs.

Stezter’s advice is similar to that of Trebilcock who I quoted earlier.

Stetzer give three pieces of advice now (followed with a quote I took from each section) that I’m including here :

1. Grieve for the deceived

Let’s be careful to avoid our own self-deception. The Phelps family, and the Westboro clan they started, are full of people that need Jesus. Let’s not get Pharisaical here—the Phelps family and the people they lead in worship of a false god are sinners, but so are we. The people who spew the hateful words of Phelps’s hateful god need the love of Jesus just like you and me. Pray for them to find peace in Jesus and love as he has loved.

2. Boldly proclaim God’s love

On this day, let’s do the opposite of what Fred Phelps did, and love the people that we don’t like and tell them—or better yet, show them—that God loves them too.

Today, when the world will likely be celebrating the death of a broken man who led a movement characterized by deception and disdain, reach out to others and show them what the unconditional love of God is really like and how it is shown in Jesus Christ.

3. Don’t hate the Phelps family

Why hate those who are trapped in their hate?

Pray for them. Share grace with them. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” There will be lots of hate spewed out today toward the Phelps family. I will not join in.

On this day of Fred Phelps’s death—a man who has become a symbol of hateful religion—I choose to find someone to show and share the love of Jesus.

Now back to my thoughts…

Cheering the news of the death of Fred Phelps does nothing but get us wrapped up in the cycle of hate that Westboro did a good job of perpetuating. Instead we need to work together with others to show love and community like people in the Patriot Guard Riders and the various other groups who showed up to funerals that Westboro was picketing to shield the grieving families from having to deal with them. Work to turn this into a positive instead of just reveling in the fleeting moment.

With some reports indicating Phelps had been kicked out of Westboro, I pray that he might have had an epiphany of some kind. All I can do is pray for everyone involved and pray for Fred Phelps and the repose of his soul.

I’ll sum things up now before I ramble too much.

To my friends on the right, if you were upset and ready to spit nails over those on the left who were gleeful on the death of Ronald Reagan (and more recently Margaret Thatcher) but you are cheering the death of Phelps, you are doing it wrong. I’ll say the same to those of you on the left who are celebrating today but got upset at some on the right who were gleeful when Ted Kennedy died.

I don’t think I’m better than anyone who is happy about the death of Fred Phelps. They have the same right to say whatever they wish. It just pains me to see some of my friends (Christians or not) getting caught up in the hate.

Individual Chick-Fil-A locations have the option to sell fish sandwiches

photo 2

I previously wrote about Chick-Fil-A selling fish sandwiches in selected locations for Lent and I reviewed the sandwich itself. It appeared maybe it was some sort of test marketing scheme for now, but after talking to Chick-Fil-A corporate communications I have something authoritative on where you can get the fish sandwiches and why.

Here’s the explanation:

Your individual restaurants have the option of offering a fish sandwich through April 18.  Since this is an optional menu item, we encourage your [readers] to call their local Chick-fil-A restaurant to see if they are offering the fish sandwich before they visit the store.

My take: you should be sure to go into your local Chick-Fil-A and say you want them to sell fish sandwiches during Lent. You might have to take the extra step of a phone call or email to the local owners and it may be next year before it actually happens.