College Professor Files Suit Against Religious Discrimination

( [email protected] ) Jul 08, 2004 09:15 PM EDT

James Tuttle, Professor at Lakeland Community College in Ohio filed a lawsuit against the college for punishing him after sharing his Catholic beliefs to students.

According to Jeff Brauer, the attorney who represents Tuttle, Lakeland reduced Tuttle’s course load, demoted him, and assigned him to classes the administration knew he did not want to teach after a complaint was made by a student at Lakeland last Spring about Tuttle discussing his Catholic beliefs in his "Moral Philosophy" class. Tuttle accused the school of violating his First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights.

"We would like to see Dr. Tuttle returned to his position," Brauer said. "We would like to see [an end to] the interference that he has faced in teaching an Introduction to Philosophy class. We believe that the topics he decided to discuss were his to decide and not the college's to censor."

Brauer said what Tuttle was doing cannot be considered as indoctrinating students. "This is a person who simply wanted to make it clear what he knew about,” he said. “He talked about it as the perspective he came from. He was open to any student's perspective -- and he's had students of every religious viewpoint be complimentary of him and positive of him."

Brauer added that the school should be banned from denouncing an instructor for having view that are in conflict with the institution. "Nothing less than the soul of post-secondary education is at stake," he said.

Greg Lukianoff with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), who is advising Tuttle, criticized Lakeland in a letter to the president last December saying that the school is engaging in religious discrimination. He said:

"There's an unwarranted bias against this professor just because his philosophy is based in Catholic thought. I think if his philosophy was based, as many philosophers are, in Buddhist thought or in some other religious tradition other than Catholic, he wouldn't be experiencing a problem at all."

He added, "Saying that a philosophy professor cannot discuss his own personal philosophy or his own personal take on philosophy -- particularly something that has as many great minds behind it as the 2,000 years of Catholic philosophy -- is both outrageous and absurd.”

Lukianoff insisted that just as feminists are not forced to conceal their feminism, Catholic philosophers should be free to be Catholic philosophers.

"If universities truly wish to create an atmosphere where open exchange and candor is welcome, they must teach students that having their beliefs challenged is essential to -- not the enemy of -- education," Lukianoff wrote in the letter.