WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said today it is demanding that an Oregon community college rehire a teacher fired after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained about a class he was scheduled to teach about the religion of Islam. The ACLJ, which represents the instructor, contends that Lane Community College (LCC) in Eugene, Oregon violated the contractual and constitutional rights of the teacher by firing him and cancelling the class because of pressure from CAIR.
"This is a textbook case of a public college improperly firing an instructor in response to public pressure," said CeCe Heil, ACLJ Senior Counsel, who is handling the case. "The school had approved the course and our client's request to teach it. Only after CAIR got involved did the school react - caving to political pressure and intimidation - firing our client and cancelling the course. The school clearly violated the First Amendment free speech rights of our client. It's disappointing that a community college that should uphold an environment of academic freedom along with diversity and acceptance has failed to do so in this case. We're demanding that the school rehire our client and reinstate the class he had been scheduled to teach. If corrective action is not taken, we're prepared to take legal action to protect the rights of our client."
Barry Sommer had been scheduled to begin teaching a non-credit course next month entitled: "What is Islam?" at LCC. The class was designed to introduce students primarily to the Qur’an and other viewpoints on Islam in a world where terrorism is a constant threat. The purpose of this course was to provide a basic understanding of Islamic doctrines so that students could make informed decisions based on unbiased and current information.
Within a day after the course had been advertised online, CAIR contacted college officials demanding that Sommer be removed charging that he intended to promote "anti-Muslim bigotry" citing his involvement with the group "Act! for America" - an advocacy group that speaks out in defense of America - a group which CAIR labels an anti-Muslim hate group.
Within hours after CAIR's demand and press release, the college fired Sommer and cancelled the class.
In its demand letter to Lane Community College, the ACLJ contends that the school breached an employment contract with Sommer, violated his First Amendment rights by cancelling the class, and succumbed to pressure applied from CAIR, a terrorist-related group that the U.S. government has labeled an 'unindicted co-conspirator' in connection with a major terrorism funding case with links to Hamas.
The demand letter states: "Cancelling Mr. Sommer’s course due to CAIR’s complaint conflicts with the longstanding tradition at public colleges, commanded by the First Amendment, of protecting academic freedom in order to prevent an orthodoxy—often fueled by the political correctness of the day— from being imposed upon college instructors and students. LCC should right this wrong by reinstating the course and allowing interested students to register and draw their own conclusions."
The ACLJ has given the school until next Wednesday, December 15th, to respond and take corrective action or face possible legal action in federal court.
"While CAIR is free to exercise its freedom of speech to criticize viewpoints with which it disagrees, LCC is not free to breach a contract and censor viewpoints in the name of 'sensitivity' or political correctness," the demand letter contends. "In sum, for a biased and questionable group such as CAIR to willfully try to interfere with a contract and attempt to stifle First Amendment rights of any potential opposition is to be entirely expected. However, for a state institution to follow suit is not!"
"The law is clear," the demand letter concludes. "LCC must reinstate Mr. Sommer’s course and allow him to teach."
The ACLJ's demand letter to LCC is posted here.
Led by Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice focuses on constitutional law and is based in Washington, D.C. The ACLJ is online at www.aclj.org.