Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in March on behalf of Dr. Allan M. Josephson, a professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The university allegedly demoted, harassed and fired Josephson because of his views on transgender orthodoxy and gender dysphoria.
Josephson was hired by the university in 2003 to lead its Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology. Over his nearly 16-year tenure, he built a program that “now has a national reputation,” according to The College Fix.In 2017, Josephson participated in a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation, discussing treatment approaches for youth experiencing gender dysphoria.
“The notion that gender identity should trump chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia and secondary sex characteristics when classifying individuals is counter to medical science,” he argued.
He went on to reason, “Children persistently, insistently and consistently demand many things that are not good for them. A parent’s role is to resist these demands when parental wisdom trumps children’s limited life experience.”
He also disagreed with the notion that the medical community should help all children showing signs of gender dysphoria to transition.
In each situation, Josephson spoke in his personal capacity and did not represent the university.
The lawsuit claims that Josephson’s views offended some of his peers and colleagues, particularly those running the university’s campus LGBT center. Consequently, they demanded that the university take disciplinary action against Josephson.
Within a few weeks, the university responded by demoting him from his division chief position to the role of a junior faculty member. The university had previously awarded Josephson perfect scores in his 2014, 2015 and 2016 annual reviews.
Then this past February, during his annual review, Josephson was told that the university would not be renewing his contract in June. Shortly thereafter, Josephson filed a lawsuit against the university for violating his First and 14th Amendment rights.
“Dr. Josephson has had a long and distinguished career at the University of Louisville, leading and rebuilding its child psychiatry program,” said Travis Barham, an ADF attorney. “Public universities have no business demoting or firing professors simply because they hold a different view than their colleagues or the administration.”
The lawsuit, Josephson v. Bendapudi, has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky and demands an injunction ordering the university to renew Josephson’s contract, restore his position as division chief and purge his personnel file of everything related to this matter.
An Interview With Allan Josephson, MD
Recently, Dr. Josephson interviewed with Decision about the lawsuit and how the University of Louisville’s actions have affected him.
DECISION: Can you describe the moment you received the news that the university would not renew your contract?
JOSEPHSON: That moment was the culmination of a 15-month journey involving demotion, hostile marginalization and finally termination—all because the university did not like a few things I had said off campus. Hearing this final news brought back to mind everything that had preceded it. I remembered being stunned as I read the letter stating that I would be removed from my leadership position, despite my proven track record. It seemed incomprehensible and, simply, wrong. I remembered the profound sense of rejection and confusion as I was marginalized to the role of a junior faculty member in the division I had reinvigorated. Overall, at that moment, I was convinced that professors should not have to fear for their careers when they accept speaking opportunities or hold differing views.
DECISION: In what ways has your relationship with Jesus Christ been challenged during this time? How has your faith helped carry you?
JOSEPHSON: This entire ordeal has strengthened and deepened my faith in Jesus Christ. The truth of a fallen world in need of redemption has never been clearer to me, and I have appreciated more than before Christ’s suffering and betrayal. It has also given me a renewed appreciation for Scripture, especially passages like Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Prayer has also become a renewed resource, and the support and prayers of fellow believers have provided immeasurable comfort.
DECISION: How do you believe this situation influences the culture at the University of Louisville?
JOSEPHSON: Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, a place where discussion and interchange can take place, not an assembly line for one type of thought. But at the University of Louisville, like many other universities, the culture has changed from an academic culture to an activist culture. Thus, the driving question on any topic—especially topics like this one—is not, “Is this true?” but rather, “Do you agree with me?”
Sadly, the university has forgotten that tolerance is a two-way street. Public universities must respect the free speech rights of their professors, regardless of the points of view they express. Otherwise, the exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of higher education will end, and people will shy away from expressing their ideas, lest they endanger their careers in the process—as happened to me.
DECISION: What do you hope comes from this lawsuit?
JOSEPHSON: I hope this case helps reestablish the basic principle that public colleges have no business demoting or terminating people simply because they hold different views than their colleagues or the administration. The First Amendment allows all views to be expressed, and this freedom is fundamental to any academic pursuit. People cannot pursue new ideas and new knowledge in an environment where they have to fear losing their position if their views are unpopular. Truth cannot advance in an echo chamber where only certain, university-approved ideas can be uttered. So, hopefully, this case will remind universities that telling students and faculty to keep their heads down and their views to themselves is not the academic ideal and is actually illegal.