Clash Over Free Speech
A California-based history professor has initiated legal action, alleging that his freedom of expression has been suppressed by his employer. The employer in question, Bakersfield College, allegedly terminated his colleague for sharing conservative political views. The lawsuit, filed by The Institute for Free Speech on behalf of Professor Daymon Johnson, asserts that his own expression might face curtailment if the college persists in its approach.
An Atmosphere of Fear
According to the lawsuit, Professor Johnson has valid concerns about his future at Bakersfield College if he continues to voice his perspectives. He is Professor Matthew Garrett’s successor as the Faculty Lead for the Renegade Institute for Liberty (“RIFL”), a coalition of faculty members advocating for free speech, meritocracy, and free markets. The lawsuit states that Johnson fears increased scrutiny due to his leading role in RIFL, a group purportedly “villainized” by college administrators.
Caught in a Legal Web
Bakersfield College previously subjected Johnson to a lengthy investigation for criticizing a colleague’s views on RIFL’s Facebook page. Though Johnson was ultimately cleared of any rule violations, the process required him to secure legal counsel, and the school’s findings maintained that Johnson had expressed his views, possibly driven by political disagreement. The lawsuit suggests that a high-ranking official criticized RIFL as a group “promoting exclusion” in conflict with the school’s state-mandated ideology promoting anti-racist views.
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A Call for Protection
Johnson seeks to prevent the college from punishing him for expressing his views, citing First Amendment protections against being forced to maintain a specific ideology. The lawsuit argues that Johnson should be granted declaratory and injunctive relief to secure his First Amendment rights, preventing him from being “culled” like a disruptive animal for disagreeing with the defendants’ political views.
The lawsuit also points to a controversial comment made by John Corkins, Vice President of the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees, which operates Bakersfield College. At a board meeting, Corkins compared those who disagreed with his views to livestock destined for the slaughterhouse. He later apologized for the comment but defended its intent, saying it was meant to emphasize his full support for individuals who voiced their opinions during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Previous Termination and Controversies
Johnson’s former colleague, Professor Matthew Garrett, was fired in April after he criticized the college for labeling “anti-Marxist” stickers as a “hate crime” in a 2019 op-ed. The controversy escalated when his campus group questioned a “racial climate survey” during a campus diversity meeting, leading to Garrett’s removal from the diversity committee.
The response of Bakersfield College and The Institute for Free Speech to this situation remains pending.
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