Two members of Students for Life at Fresno State University have filed a lawsuit against assistant professor of public health, Greg Thatcher, for violating their right to free speech when he and his students erased their pro-life chalk messages off the sidewalk. The pro-life group claimed they had permission from Student Involvement and email as proof.
In a video that surfaced, a number of students are seen scrubbing the pro-life messages off the sidewalk with their shoes. When confronted by pro-life members Bernadette Tasy and Jesus Herrera, they reply their teacher, “Thatcher,” told them to do it.
The members then go and confront Thatcher, who derisively explains to Tasy, “The whole idea of free speech is we have a free speech area here on campus, okay? Free speech is free speech in the free speech area. It’s a pretty simple concept, okay? This does not constitute a free speech area. Okay?
“Okay, here, let me show ya,” Thatcher says. “You have permission to put it down.” He then proceeds to scrub the chalk off the sidewalk with his shoes. “I have permission to get rid of it. This is our part of free speech. Do you disagree with our part of free speech?”
He then goes on to argue with Tasy asking what his students are doing that isn’t a part of free speech and asks if she saw his students erasing the messages off the sidewalk.
“Yes I did. I actually have video of it,” she tells him.
“College campuses are not free speech areas. Do you understand? Obviously you don’t understand,” Thatcher tells her.
According to Alliance for Defending Freedom, the non-profit representing the plaintiffs, Fresno State does not have a free speech zone and a school official stated Thursday that the entire campus is open and supports freedom of expression.
The president of Students for Life of America, Kristan Hawkins, stated, “Fresno State Students for Life received full permission to chalk pro-life messages near the library. Rather than countering with his own message, Dr. Thatcher took the illegal approach of censoring speech and inciting students to help in this. 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.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court Thursday, alleges seven to 10 students erased the anti-abortion messages following Thatcher’s orders, and one student stole the chalk and wrote a pro-abortion message. It alleges that universities across the country are censoring ideas they don’t agree with and “manipulate student passions.” The lawsuit goes on to state that 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.”
“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,” ADF attorney Travis Barham said in a statement. “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.”
For more information, visit the Alliance for Defending Freedom