Liberties Reporting on First Amendment freedoms

Standing up to academic thought police

First Amendment | California sociology professor reinstated after school fired him for conservative views
by Steve West
Posted 7/30/19, 04:16 pm

A California state court has sided with a community college sociology professor fired for exposing his students to conservative perspectives on marriage, gender roles, and sexual orientation.

In 2017, Moreno Valley College dismissed Eric Thompson, who had taught at the school near Riverside, Calif., since 2005, for conducting “dangerous” and “immoral” discussions with students. He regularly challenged students in his sociology courses to defend their positions on topics like marriage, gender roles, and sexual orientation, and introduced his students to multiple views on the origin of same-sex attraction.

Thompson showed his students a video called Understanding Same-Sex Attraction and sent it to a faculty email list. The documentary, produced by Family Watch International, countered the prevailing view that biology, not environment, causes same-sex attraction. Thompson said that as a Christian he agreed with the video, but he was not trying to foist his views on the students. He just wanted to share another point-of-view with them.

“It was eye-opening, another side of the story I had never seen before, and I was really excited about it,” Thompson told me. “After I showed the video, that’s when the trouble began. … That’s when I had a bull’s-eye target on my back.”

One homosexual colleague filed an administrative complaint alleging harassment over what Thompson termed “amicable conversations,” and the college required Thompson to attend sensitivity training. Then, after a student complained of being victimized by a class discussion of the Supreme Court’s Obergerfell v. Hodges decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the school’s Diversity Committee demanded that Thompson stop showing the video. He received a notice of professional misconduct.

In a final complaint, a student alleged she was given a D grade because she was a lesbian. Despite an investigation failing to find that Thompson violated any school policies, in October 2017 he was summoned to the college president’s office and told to surrender his keys and gather personal effects from his office. Security guards escorted him off the campus. Thompson was allowed one year of paid leave, but since then, the husband and father of nine has worked as a handyman to support his family.

Despite multiple complaints, both an arbitrator and finally a judge concluded last month that the college had no basis for firing Thompson. “Reaching a determination as to what is acceptable academic speech can well be subtle and ‘difficult,’” the arbitrator wrote, but academic speech should not be prohibited “simply because society finds it offensive or disagreeable.”

The court’s vindication of Thompson means he can return to teaching, but attorneys for the school said they may appeal the ruling and seek a stay of the order. Michael Peffer, an attorney with the nonprofit Pacific Justice Institute who represented Thompson during the two-week arbitration proceedings and at trial, told me that attorneys for the college believe Thompson created a hostile classroom environment. “What they seem to mean is that just the fact that he talks about his family being a traditional marriage with a stay-at-home mom is offensive,” Peffer said.

Academic bullying has targeted other Christian professors across the country. At the University of Louisville in Kentucky, officials demoted and ultimately fired professor Allan M. Josephson, longtime chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology, because of his views on the treatment of gender dysphoria in youth. Faculty members denounced him for his critique of new treatments for the condition such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Shawnee State University disciplined philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether because he insisted on using the courtesy title that corresponded to a transgender student’s biological sex.

Thompson remains undaunted by the attacks on him. “This battle has been growth-inducing, as it has made me have to trust the Lord on a number of levels,” he said, adding, “In some ways it has been good to go through this.”

Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay (file) Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay (file) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas moves to protect Chick-fil-A

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law July 18. Legislators who sponsored the bill held red and white Chick-fil-A cups as Abbott touted the new law as a win for religious liberty.

The measure prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against groups or individuals based on their membership in or donation to a religious organization. It was born after the San Antonio City Council banned Chick-fil-A from its airport. Some city council members, joined by LGBT advocacy organizations, claimed that the popular fast-food restaurant was discriminatory because it contributed to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army through its charitable foundation.

Others pointed to CEO Dan Cathy’s support for Biblical marriage. In 2012, Cathy said that the United States was “inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and we say we know better than you what constitutes a marriage.”

The city of San Antonio remains under investigation by both the Texas attorney general and the Federal Aviation Administration for the ban. The nonprofit First Liberty Institute has joined a lawsuit brought by the attorney general that seeks records related to the City Council’s decision. —S.W.

Becket Becket Sharonell Fulton

Philly foster mothers appeal

Foster mothers Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch of Philadelphia asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to review an appeals court decision against Catholic Social Services, which has been providing foster homes to children in the city for more than 100 years.

In March 2018, Philadelphia put out a call for 300 new families to foster children. Days later, the city barred placement of children through Catholic Social Services due to the organization’s long-standing policy of operating according to its Biblical convictions about marriage by not placing children with same-sex couples.

Fulton, who has fostered more than 40 children, and Simms-Busch, a social worker who has also fostered children, sued the city with the help of the law firm Becket. A U.S. District Court ruled against them, as did the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on the grounds that the agency must abide by city nondiscrimination policies.

Philadelphia joins other local and state governments that have excluded Catholic and religious agencies from foster care contracts. A lawsuit seeking to overturn such actions is pending in Michigan, even as some states—like Kansas and Oklahoma—have passed legislation to shield faith-based foster care providers.

“As the city of Philadelphia attempts to shamelessly score political points, dozens of beds remain empty, and children are suffering the consequences,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket. “It’s time for the Supreme Court to weigh in and allow faith-based agencies to continue doing what they do best: giving vulnerable children loving homes.” —S.W.

Associated Press/Photo by David Zalubowski (file) Associated Press/Photo by David Zalubowski (file) Jack Phillips talks to a customer at his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo.

Sore losers

Colorado baker Jack Phillips asked a judge to dismiss a new lawsuit filed against him and his bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, for declining to create cakes celebrating events or expressing messages contrary to his faith.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips in June 2018 after he refused to design custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriage, but that didn’t put an end to the controversy.

Phillips found himself facing another lawsuit last month from transgender advocate Autumn Scardina. The complaint seeks damages of $100,000 from Phillips in addition to legal fees.

“Phillips wants to peacefully live out his faith as a cake artist by serving all people while declining to express messages that violate his beliefs,” the motion to dismiss filed last week explains. —S.W.

Steve West

Steve is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course.

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Comments

  • Xion's picture
    Xion
    Posted: Tue, 07/30/2019 05:57 pm

    What the school considers “dangerous” and “immoral” is truth.  The truth is deemed hostile causing trauma and victimization.

    It's gonna get worse.  The WSJ just published an article on the new California public school curriculum which teaches that Capitalism is Racist and much more.  None of it is actually based in reality.  California is at war with truth.

  • Jarofclay
    Posted: Sat, 08/03/2019 05:44 am

    For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
    And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Romans 1: 25-32

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