by Kelvey Vander Hart
A federal court has ordered that a liberal Fresno State University professor must pay $17,000 in damages and undergo training on the First Amendment after he violated the free speech rights of pro-life students on campus.
Gregory Thatcher, a professor of public health, disagrees with the pro-life message publicized by the Fresno State Students of Life club. But after the club had chalked some pro-life messages on campus, not only did Thatcher destroy them — he recruited some of his own students to help in the destruction.
Alliance Defending Freedom took up the pro-life club’s case, and in Fresno State Students for Life v. William Gregory Thatcher, the court ruled that Thatcher is forbidden from interfering with the students’ free speech expressions.
“No public university professor has the authority to silence any student speech he happens to find objectionable or to recruit other students to participate in his censorship,” stated ADF legal counsel Travis Barham. “Like all government officials, professors have an obligation to respect the constitutionally protected free speech of students.”
The pro-life student group received permission from the university’s administration to create the chalkings back in April. These chalkings were life-affirming and showed support for students who are pregnant or parents. They also described the development of an unborn child.
The project was finished on May 2, and that is when Thatcher confronted the group. He told them they weren’t allowed to do the chalkings outside of the free speech zone, apparently unaware that the school had abolished the free speech zone almost two years prior. When the club president informed them that they had received permission to create the chalkings, Thatcher let her know that he would be back to remove them.
He returned with seven students from his class to destroy the chalkings. When club president Bernadette Tasy reminded him that they had received permission, he began to rub one of the chalkings away with his foot. “You have permission to put [the chalk messages] down … I have permission to get rid of it,” he stated.
Students for Life captured the incident on video:
The court ordered Thatcher to pay the legal fees of Tasy and Jesus Herrara, another club member, along with paying each of them $1,000. He was also mandated to undergo an Alliance Defending Freedom training on the First Amendment.
Thatcher showed zero remorse for his actions. According to The Fresno Bee, he “admitted absolutely no wrongdoing” and thinks he “did not have to pay a dime.” He won’t be paying the money out-of-pocket anyway — the damages will be covered by his insurance company through the National Education Association.
Photo credit: Screenshot via YouTube