Gets Sued By Student Group For Removing Pro-Life “Chalking” Messages
Earlier this month, DNC chair Tom Perez famously declared that every Democrat should be pro-abortion, and apparently a garbled version of this memo seeped down to one Fresno State professor as “every person should be pro-abortion . . . or be silenced.”
Assistant professor of public health Gregory Thatcher directed his class to erase pro-life messages that Students for Life had written in chalk on the sidewalks at Fresno State, a public university.
The interaction between Thatcher and the student reporter resulted in a jaw-dropping exchange in which Thatcher condescendingly explains that such messages are only appropriate in “free speech areas.” He further notes, “College campuses are not free speech areas.”
Video footage shows Greg Thatcher, a professor of public health, scrubbing out messages like “women need love, not abortion” with his shoe and instructing other students to do the same. Thatcher claimed that the messages would only be allowed in a designated “free speech area” on campus, and says in the video that “college campuses are not free speech areas.”
However, Fresno State no longer has such a free speech zone, and an official said in a statement Thursday that “our entire campus is open and supports freedom of expression.”
His initial “defense” appeared to be one of denial because he first asked if his students had been seen wiping out the messages. When the Student for Life interviewer said she not only had seen it but had video of it, Thatcher chose to double-down.
He stalked over to the nearest pro-life message and began erasing it with his foot, while stating (erroneously) that he has “permission” to “get rid of it.”
— Megan Rupe (@MeganRupeTV) May 11, 2017
Free speech at Fresno State, at least as understood by this person, is restricted to specially-designated free speech areas, yet his own free speech in that same zero tolerance zone is apparently just fine as long as it entails curtailing pro-life students’ free speech.
Not so fast, says Fresno State president Joseph Castro, whose statement on the incident explicitly notes there is no “free speech zone” or other such designation on the campus. He further notes that the matter is under review and being taken “very seriously.”
— Fresno State (@Fresno_State) May 11, 2017
Fox 26 reports on the response they received from Castro:
“Fresno State supports and defends the right of students to free speech and the peaceful expression of ideas on campus. The university’s policy is clear: free speech on campus is not limited to a “free speech zone” or any other narrowly defined area. Universities have an obligation to encourage the free expression of ideas, values and opinions.
The students who wrote the chalk messages received prior university approval and were well within their rights to express themselves in this manner.
Those disagreeing with the students’ message have a right to their own speech, but they do not have the right to erase or stifle someone else’s speech under the guise of their own right to free speech. We are reviewing this matter and take the situation very seriously.”
-Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
A professor at Fresno State University has taken it upon himself to be the speech police on campus. Watch this video from @Students4LifeHQ: pic.twitter.com/vrV6VoFM14
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@AllianceDefends) May 11, 2017
The lawsuit alleges that universities across the country censor ideas that the administration doesn’t agree with and that professors “manipulate student passions.” Thatcher “assigned himself the role of student speech censor, a one-man taxpayer-paid heckler’s veto over student expression that differs with his own views,” the lawsuit says.
Travis Barham, an attorney with Alliance for Defending Freedom – a Christian nonprofit that is representing the students – said he hopes the case will be used to warn professors across the country about students’ rights to free speech.
“No university professor has the authority to roam the campus, silencing any student speech he happens to find objectionable and recruiting students to participate in this censorship,” Barham said. “Like all government officials, professors have an obligation to respect students’ free speech rights. And they should encourage all students to participate in the marketplace of ideas, rather than silencing those with whom they happen to differ. The professor’s actions here represent a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”
Students for Life of America also issued a statement condemning the professor’s actions.
“No students should have to endure this kind of intimidation and harassment for simply expressing their views, but especially not those who want to help the women betrayed, and the pre-born children killed, by the abortion industry,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of the group.
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