Court Sides With Professor Fired for Expressing Conservative Views in the Classroom
Riverside, CA—A Riverside Superior Court Judge sided with a Christian professor after reviewing Riverside Community College District’s petition to reverse an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate him.
Professor Eric Thompson taught at Moreno Valley College since 2005 and twice received the “Faculty of the Year Award,” an honor voted on by students. He often challenged his students in his sociology courses to defend their positions on topics like marriage, gender roles, and sexual orientation. A necessary part of his classes involved exposing his students to multiple views on topics like the origins of same-sex attraction.
In 2014, several students and colleagues complained that Thompson was harming students by exposing them to the view that same-sex attraction might stem from environmental factors rather than a person’s biology. The community college subsequently investigated Thompson three times and, although the investigations concluded that no violation of District Policy or Administrative Procedure occurred, labeled Thompson’s actions “unprofessional.” After multiple hearings, the college put Thompson on paid leave in 2016 and fired him in 2017 for conducting “dangerous” and “immoral” discussions.
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) attorney Michael Peffer represented Thompson through a grueling arbitration process in 2018, which resulted in the reversal of Thompson’s termination.
On July 9, 2019, the Judge upheld the Arbitrator’s finding that the District’s termination of Thompson was not warranted. The Judge’s ruling concluded with the Arbitrator’s statement: “Reaching a determination as to what is acceptable academic speech can well be subtle and ‘difficult’ . . . [and] . . . should not be prohibit[ed] . . . simply because society finds it offensive or disagreeable.”
“The District believes that any discussion of the traditional notions of family are, or should be illegal,” commented Peffer. “Two judicial officers have now concluded the District is wrong.”
Brad Dacus, Founder and President of PJI, said, “We are encouraged by this court’s decision to protect Professor Thompson’s voice of reason from being squelched out of the classroom. Our legal team is on the battleground of college campuses to protect the First Amendment rights of teachers and students.”