A Fresno State professor will pay $17,000 and undergo first amendment training after he erased students’ anti-abortion chalk messages on campus, according to Alliance Defending Freedom.
Greg Thatcher, a professor of public health, was sued in May by two students after video showed him scrubbing out messages like “women need love, not abortion” with his shoe and instructing other students to do the same. A court order filed last week forbids Thatcher from “interfering with, disrupting, defacing, or altering” any similar student activities.
Thatcher claimed the messages should be allowed only in a designated “free speech area” on campus, and says in the video that “college campuses are not free speech areas.” Fresno State does not have a designated free speech zone, and the university said after the incident that “our entire campus is open and supports freedom of expression.”
Fresno State students Bernadette Tasy and Jesus Herrera, involved in a national anti-abortion group called Students for Life of America, will get $1,000 in damages, while $15,000 will go to Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit focusing on religious freedom, which defended the students in court. Thatcher will also undergo two hours of First Amendment training by the organization.
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“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,” ADF attorney Travis Barham said in a statement Thursday. “Like all government officials, professors have an obligation to respect the constitutionally protected free speech of students.
“Of all people, professors should be the first to encourage all students to participate in the marketplace of ideas rather than erase the speech of those with whom they differ. The professor’s actions here were wrong and flagrantly violated the First Amendment.”
Thatcher did not return messages Thursday.