Wipeout: Prof learns expensive lesson for erasing students' message
By: BOB UNRUH
A health professor at California State University at Fresno who lashed out at members of a campus pro-life organization, insisting "college campuses are not free speech areas" and then wiping out the messages they had permission to chalk on sidewalks, has been ordered by a judge not to repeat his offenses.
Greg Thatcher also agreed to pay $17,000, $15,000 for lawyers' fees for the Alliance Defending Freedom and $1,000 to each of the students involved in the sidewalk demonstration, and take two hours of free-speech training.
WND reported in May the lawsuit was filed against Thatcher in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California by students who had obtained permission for their sidewalk display.
Members recorded their encounter with Thatcher, who berated them for their pro-life expression, "claimed that they could only express themselves in a 'free speech area' (which the university eliminated two years ago), and then proceeded to scrub out their chalk messages on the sidewalk."
The video is here:
Now ADF says a judge's order was issued prohibiting Thatcher from "interfering with, disrupting, defacing, or altering any future legal expressive activities that Fresno State Students for Life or its members conduct."
He's also been ordered not to direct, promote or encourage others to do that.
The video was captured by Fresno State Students for Life president Bernadette Tasy.
"This is great news! It ensures that Fresno State Students for Life will not have to fear more censorship and harassment from Thatcher or students he recruits," ADF said. "It is also a chance to promote a better understanding of the First Amendment. And based on the video, that's an understanding that Thatcher desperately needs."
The legal team said: "Through his actions, Thatcher was teaching his students that the proper response to speech that you disagree with is to silence it. But this is simply wrong. The First Amendment teaches that the proper response to speech you do not like is to engage in your own speech, advancing your views peacefully.
"Ridiculously, Thatcher tried to claim that he was engaging in his own free speech by erasing the messages. As he erased one of the chalk messages, Thatcher declared: 'You had permission to put it down. ... I have permission to get rid of it. ... This is our part of free speech. Do you disagree with our part of free speech?' But censorship is not free speech, and it is absurd to claim otherwise. Even Fresno State recognized this, as its policies state the obvious: 'The right of self-expression does not extend to preventing self-expression by others.'"
In April, students got permission to chalk positive, life-affirming messages on the sidewalks leading to the university's library. Thatcher then appeared, "falsely alleging they could not chalk messages" there.
He kept insisting they go to a "free speech area" that the university had eliminated nearly two years earlier.
"Today's college students will be tomorrow's legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That's why it's so important that university professors model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone that Dr. Thatcher and many other university officials across the country are communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn't matter," said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox.
The students' messages included:
- "You CAN be pregnant & successful."
- "Women need love, NOT abortion."
- "Support pregnant + parenting students."
- "The essence of all humanity is inside a fetus."
- "Fetus is Latin for small child."
- "Love them both. Choose life."