A YouTube screen shot shows Fresno State Assistant Professor Greg Thatcher rubbing out pro-life messages chalked on a sidewalk at Fresno State.
Written by The Business Journal Staff
A Fresno State professor will pay $17,000 and undergo First Amendment training in settlement of a lawsuit that accused him of defacing pro-life chalk messages on campus.
Members of the Fresno State Students for Life club filed the lawsuit in federal court in May with help from attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, according to a news release from the Arizona-based group that advocates for religious freedom.
The lawsuit alleges that Assistant Professor Thatcher violated students’ right to free speech by asking his own students to rub out the chalk messages that were written on a campus sidewalk by members of Fresno State Students for Life. Student leaders of the pro-life club Bernadette Tasy and Jesus Herrera were named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Club members said they had permission from campus officials to chalk the messages, which included: “Pregnant? Need Help? Call 800-712-Help,” “You CAN be pregnant & successful,” and “At 20 weeks, the human fetus can feel pain.” About 35 to 50 messages were written along the sidewalk from the Henry Madden Library to the campus fountain.
The lawsuit said Thatcher recruited at least seven students from his 8 a.m. class to deface the messages in the May 2 incident, which was filmed by members of Fresno State Students for Life and posted on YouTube.
As part of the settlement order filed Nov. 3 in federal court, Thatcher is prohibited from interfering with the legal club activities of Fresno State Students for Life on campus. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys also said Thatcher must pay $1,000 each to the two club leaders named in the suit, as well as $15,000 in attorneys’ fees. He must also undergo two hours of First Amendment training by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom, according to the news release.