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Professor who says he’s no longer gay sues university over contract nonrenewal

‘He was maligned and punished solely for holding to and expressing orthodox Catholic teaching elsewhere,’ lawsuit alleges

A former professor is suing Western Michigan University for not renewing his employment contract after his writings about leaving homosexuality sparked controversy at the school.

Daniel Mattson, who worked as a trombonist and adjunct professor in WMU’s School of Music since 1999, is suing campus leaders involved in the non-renewal decision for allegedly violating his constitutional right to free speech, free exercise of religion, and for claims regarding equal protection under the law.

“In the fall of 2021, campus activists discovered Mr. Mattson’s writings on Catholicism and same-sex attraction,” Mattson’s lawsuit states.

“They claimed that his Catholic views were offensive to homosexual students and protested his continued affiliation with the school. In short order, the school administration removed Mr. Mattson from a student-faculty ensemble and did not renew his annual contract,” it states.

The College Fix reached out to Western Michigan University’s media relations department and Mattson’s attorneys for comment, but has yet to hear back.

Responding to questions about the lawsuit, a university spokeswoman told Inside Higher Ed that “as this is a matter of pending litigation, I cannot comment on it.”

In 2018, Mattson authored a piece titled “Why Men Like Me Should Not Be Priests.” In it, Mattson endorsed the Catholic Church’s stance that men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are not a “suitable candidate for priesthood.”

“I take no offense at this teaching. In fact, I agree with it,” Mattson wrote in the article.

Mattson also authored a memoir “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace,” which was published in 2017.

Mattson’s lawsuit alleges that even though he never discussed his religious beliefs with students or in a campus setting, his supervisors fired him amid backlash stemming from his previous writings.

“Even though Mr. Mattson never expressed his religious views at Western Michigan University, he was maligned and punished solely for holding to and expressing orthodox Catholic teaching elsewhere,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Defendants targeted Plaintiff for adverse treatment because of his speech on issues of public concern in spite of the existence of clear written policies at WMU recognizing the applicability of the First Amendment and guaranteeing freedom of speech,” Mattson’s lawsuit adds.

According to the lawsuit, Mattson seeks to be reinstated as an adjunct professor at the university and to be paid damages, in addition to “any other relief that is appropriate.”

Mattson is not the first professor to be scrutinized by universities after expressing controversial opinions outside of the classroom.

In 2018, Marquette University Professor John McAdams was reinstated after a legal battle with the university over his firing. McAdams was ousted from his position “for writing a blog post that criticized a fellow instructor by name,” The College Fix reported.

“I don’t apologize for telling the truth,” McAdams said after winning the lawsuit. “I hope they take the fact that you can speak out and you can tell the truth even if university bureaucrats don’t like it if you are willing to stick to your guns.”

In 2021, a formal investigation was opened at the University of San Diego into a law professor after he authored a blog post critical of the Chinese Communist Party. This came after a petition circulated demanding his firing.

University of San Diego ultimately rejected calls to fire Professor Tom Smith, stating his comments were protected by the university’s speech policies.

MORE: Conservative professor fired for blog post will return to classroom after legal victory

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About the Author
College Fix contributor David Glasser is a student at Florida State University studying political science and economics. He will be starting law school in late 2023.