Lawsuit tests Catholic teacher’s right to free speech in class


A lawsuit, filed by a Catholic professor against an Ohio community college, has freedom of speech for Catholics at stake.

An article in a recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor tells why philosophy professor James Tuttle filed suit June 30 against administrators at Lakeland Community College. The professor claims the college punished him because he disclosed his Catholic beliefs in the classroom.

Tuttle told the Christian Science Monitor that the lawsuit began after a student complained to college administrators in 2003.

As a result, Tuttle claims he received only one class assignment last fall, despite high rankings from students. When the college refused to assign him to his requested classes, he refused to teach at the school.

Jeffrey Brauer, Tuttle's attorney, says the college responded by “demoting, railroading, and terminating” the professor. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a five-year-old legal advocacy group, is representing Tuttle in court.

Many administrators wrongly believe that "a public institution must be cleansed of all religious influence to comply with the Constitution," says FIRE's David French.

Universities can't violate the right of professors to mention religion where it may be appropriate, as in a philosophy class, says Eugene Volokh, professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles.

"It's understood that students are not impressionable youngsters. They're adults; they're engaged in a consultation with a professor," Volokh told the Christian Science Monitor.

Tuttle is currently driving a limousine for a living and continues to teach part time at another community college.

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