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Professor to 6th Circuit: Don't let Univ. of Louisville off the hook for firing me over my free speech

ADF attorneys urge court to defend First Amendment rights of Dr. Allan Josephson
Related Case:
Professors shouldn’t have to fear for their careers when they share views that question the prevailing orthodoxy

CINCINNATI – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a brief Wednesday on behalf of a professor whom University of Louisville officials demoted, harassed, and then fired because of his views. ADF attorneys are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to rule that Dr. Allan Josephson’s case against these officials should proceed to trial.

Josephson is a distinguished child psychiatrist who turned around the University of Louisville’s then-struggling Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology in 2003. After Josephson spoke in his personal capacity in a panel discussion about his views on children experiencing gender dysphoria, university officials punished and then fired him in 2019. After he sued the school, a federal district court ruled in March 2023 that a jury should hear his claims that university officials retaliated against him for his constitutionally protected speech. University officials are attempting to argue that they are immune from even having to stand trial.

“Universities should welcome differing viewpoints and encourage civil discourse in their academic communities—and that includes professors,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Dr. Josephson has had a long and distinguished career at the University of Louisville, leading and rebuilding its child psychiatry program. He spoke about treatments for children struggling with their sex in his own personal time yet was punished by the university for a difference of opinion. Public universities are not immune from legal action when it comes to the First Amendment, and we are urging the court to uphold Dr. Josephson’s right to free speech.”

When Josephson was hired, he turned the school’s child psychiatry division around, building a program that now has a national reputation. In the fall of 2017, Josephson participated in a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation on treatment approaches for youth experiencing gender dysphoria. He also served as an expert witness addressing similar issues. A few of his colleagues disagreed with his views and demanded that the university take disciplinary action. University officials responded by demoting him weeks later to the role of a junior faculty member.

For the next year, Josephson was ostracized, stripped of teaching duties, and subjected to other forms of hostility. In February 2019, the university announced that it would not renew his contract in June, a highly unusual decision that terminated his employment at the university and ended his 40-year career.

In the response brief filed in Josephson v. Ganzel, ADF attorneys argue that “Dr. Josephson asserts a clearly established right—the right to be free from retaliation for speech the First Amendment protects,” and that the court should reject the university officials’ attempt to relitigate the evidence and escape responsibility for their unconstitutional actions.

  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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Tyson Langhofer
Tyson Langhofer
Senior Counsel, Director of Center for Academic Freedom
Tyson Langhofer serves as senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom with Alliance Defending Freedom.