Louisiana Creationist Professor Sues University

This news is found in the Advocate, the major newspaper in Louisiana’s capitol city of Baton Rouge. The headline is ULL professor sues for ‘discrimination’ . We’re grateful to our clandestine operative, “Bayou Boy,” for bringing it to our attention. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the university’s Communicative Disorders Department alleging faculty members have discriminated against him and marginalized his position because of his beliefs on creationism and an alleged connection between autism, mercury and vaccinations.

Oh goodie — another creationist lawsuit over “viewpoint discrimination.” And — although we’ve never followed the subject — he may be an anti-vaccer too. We were wondering what we’d write about when the Coppedge trial is over, and now we know. Back to the news:

John Oller, a professor of cognitive disorders, says in the suit, filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Lafayette, that departmental members have urged him to leave, reduced his class size, forbidden him from participating in policy committees, banned his textbook, denied him opportunities to lecture or instruct students, and announced to him that it was due to his viewpoints on matters of academic and public concern, “thereby condemning him for his outlooks as an official act of department authority,” the suit says.

Oller? We’ve seen that name before. In this Wikipedia article on the creationist classic by Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, we’re told: “Creationists including John W. Oller, Jr of the Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis positively reviewed Denton’s book.” Is that our man?

It would seem so. Here’s an article someone with that name wrote for ICR: Learning and Evolution, and here’s another: Einstein’s Gulf: Can Evolution Cross it?, which describes him at the end as “a professor of communicative disorders at the University of Louisiania [sic].” And here’s something he apparently wrote for AIG: Words Are Us. Yes, that’s our man.

Let’s read on about his unpopular viewpoints that have precipitated his lawsuit:

Those matters involve his beliefs in creationism and intelligent design, semiotic theory and on the association of toxins and disease agents with autism spectrum disorders, which involves the belief that autism is caused mainly by toxins and disease agents, such as mercury.

Well! There’s more here than creationism. We continue:

The suit says department members have engaged in “concerted efforts” to eliminate his contributions to students by excluding him from teaching opportunities, and forbidding him to use the textbook that he authored to teach the class, even while teaching non-cognitive disorders students.

Serious stuff! Here’s one more excerpt:

Oller accuses Nancye C. Roussel, an associate professor of communicative disorders and the head of the CODI department, and A. David Barry, dean of the college of liberal arts, of violating his First Amendment rights and for breaching promissory and contractual obligations to him. The suit also names Martin J. Ball, a professor of communicative disorders at ULL and the chairman of the CODI department from April 2004 through spring 2008, of violating Louisiana law by breaching promissory and contractual obligations to him, according to the suit.

We’ll need to learn a lot more about this before we have anything substantive to say. No doubt we’ll be posting more about Oller’s case in the months to come.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Louisiana Creationist Professor Sues University

  1. What are the chances the LSEA will come into play? Was it not specifically written to prevent “viewpoint discrimination”? If so, it might finally make it into a courtroom.

  2. Gary asks: “What are the chances the LSEA will come into play?”

    I don’t think it applies at the university level. Oller is just suing over his civil rights (free speech, etc.), and whatever contract terms apply to his situation.

  3. hmm… it’s just me, but I don’t see how creationism and anti-vac stuff plays into a communications disorders course.

    If he’s preaching to his classes, about that, when he should be discussing… well… communication disorders, then just fire him and be done with it.

    If the authored textbook has material known to be wrong, then why would it be used? It’s not viewpoint discrimination to teach wrong material… it’s poor teaching.

    If, he’s standing on the quad after class going on at length, then that’s another story.

    My understanding is that teachers in a classroom have limitations that are OKed by various courts. I.e. having students in your classroom is not an open invitation to preach about whatever you want. You are supposed to be teaching the course.

  4. Note the involvement by our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund. Recall their involvement with the (settled) CSC/AFI case and the (ongoing) Coppedge case.

  5. Barbara Forrest has a nice, thorough article about creationist Oller

    right here

    and the boob doesn’t even have academic credentials in the subject he “teaches.” Doesn’t say much for the college, either, IMHO.

  6. The only good thing about the 2011 elections is that Jindal (LA LA Land’s Gov.) cannot run for a third term. We’ve only got 4 more years of him. Of course by then he’ll destroy higher education in LA. We are suffering a mid-year cut to our university budgets and look forward to even bigger cuts next year. Oller should be concerned about just having a job these days. More cuts mean that some faculty will probably go bye-bye next year. Hey, maybe him. We don’t need any stinking speech pathologists in this state! Anyway Oller’s lawsuit will just add drama to an already dismal situation. As I always say, “LA LA Land, its not just California any more”.

  7. rubble says: “Note the involvement by our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund.”

    Right. They seem to specialize in “viewpoint discrimination” cases. And they like to settle rather than going to trial.

  8. It will be interesting to see if the DI supports Oller. If he’s an anti-vaxer, then he’s clearly a crank who has no place in academia at any level. The DI, by supporting him, would ally themselves with an advocate of an anti-science movement directly responsible of the deaths of numerous children.

    Not that the DI would care, of course – war has it’s casualties – and anyone was is against their enemy (science) is their friend, but they would have to be very careful as to how they spin it. It will be interesting to watch.

  9. Curmudgeon: “Is that our man?”

    One fairly accurate litmus test as to whether one is in on the scam is this: If they rave about Denton’s “Evolution, A Theory in Crissis” but “forget” his later book, where he retracts most of his anti-evolution nonsense and concedes at least common descent, one is likely in on the scam.

    From the article: “…discriminated against him and marginalized his position because of his beliefs on creationism…”

    No one should be discriminated against because of beliefs, but held accountable for actions that mislead. I hope there’s no foot-shooting on this.

  10. Ed: “It will be interesting to see if the DI supports Oller.”

    A quick read of Barbara Forrest’s article (thanks, Doc Bill!) suggests that they will act that he doesn’t exist, as they have done with John Freshwater. the reason is simple. They would love to tell thes old-style YECs and OECs to shut up and let the DI do the scamming, but that would upset many folks big tent.

  11. YECs and other cranks aren’t necessarily off-limits for the DI. After all, Coppedge is a YEC and they’re knee-deep in that one. Let’s also not forget that Philip Johnson is an HIV denier.

    I expect a cursory coverage from the DI on this one, along the lines of the Gaskell case. They likely don’t have any lawyers licensed to practice in Louisiana; recall that Luskin apparently has a California license, and thus can involve himself in the AFA and Coppedge cases.

  12. Anti-vaxers, another one of my favorite groups of people persecuted for their beliefs, aka, delusional idiots (hope that doesn’t violate the Curmudgeonly code of conduct). Oh yeah sure, there’s a government conspiracy to make your kids sick so the government can then go spend lots of money on their health care…

    I agree with Ed, the DI has to be very careful who they support, either in fact or in coverage. They have already lost most of their support and media attention, and though this would be a good way to get some attention, it could well be the nail in their coffin.