Professor fired after speech opposing puberty-blocking drugs sues university

Dr. Michelle Cretella, the president of the conservative American College of Pediatricians, speaks during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation office in Washington, D.C. on October 11, 2017. She is joined by Dr. Allen Josephson of the University of Louisville, Heritage Foundation senior fellow Ryan Anderson and Paul Hruz, a professor of pediatrics, endocrinology, cell biology and physiology at the Washington University School of Medicine. | (Screengrab: Facebook/Heritage Foundation)

A Christian legal organization is representing a psychiatrist who was demoted and essentially ousted by the University of Louisville after he spoke publicly in opposition to medicalizing gender dysphoric youth with puberty-blocking drugs and hormones.

Since 2003 Allan M. Josephson has taught in the psychology department at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Yet in October 2017, he shared his personal opinions on treatment for gender-confused young people at the Heritage Foundation, a politically conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. He was subsequently demoted from his position and was told last month that his contract would not be renewed.

At that 2017 panel, Josephson appeared alongside Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician with the American College of Pediatricians, and Paul Hruz, a professor of endocrinology at Washington University (Saint Louis) Medical School. The three panelists argued against the nebulous concept of "gender identity" and the administration of hormones to psychologically distressed children who believe they are the opposite sex.

The Kentucky professor is now presently fighting to get his job back and is backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, known for its track record of winning landmark religious freedom cases at the Supreme Court. Josephson has filed a federal lawsuit against the university in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

Travis Barham, ADF senior counsel, said in a phone interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday that the group is focusing on his free speech rights, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Although Josephson is a professing Christian, ADF does not have a free exercise of religion claim in this particular lawsuit, he noted.

"Public colleges have no business demoting people simply because they hold different views than their colleagues or different views from the administration. All Dr. Josephson did here was express his own personal views in his private capacity, off-campus for that matter," he said, adding that holding certain opinions and sharing them ought not to disqualify him for academic service.

"The Supreme Court has said over and over again that especially when certain viewpoints are out of favor that is all the more reason to give them protection. And that's especially true in the university context because universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought," Barham emphasized.

He stressed: "Public universities, because they are an arm of the government, must respect the free speech rights of their professors regardless of the points of view those professors express.

"It's just a shame that someone like Dr. Josephson, who has such a long and distinguished career at the University of Louisville, building its child psychiatry program and revitalizing it, should be treated in such a shameful fashion. And these are the people who hold themselves out to be the guardians of tolerance. But tolerance is supposed to be a two-way street. A professor should not have to fear for their career when they accept speaking opportunities or hold different views."

In an interview last week with National Review, Josephson recounted that he was stunned how quickly he noticed the atmospheric shift at his workplace after he gave his speech at Heritage.

"I was removed from my leadership position and then, within the next year, subjected to fairly hostile work-environment situations and, finally, not that long ago, informed that my contract would not be renewed when it ended on June 30," he said, explaining his ordeal to the outlet.

Josephson said he spoke as he did because he saw parents and children being harmed by these gender treatments.

"These kids are, for the most part, very vulnerable people. You can see that when you spend time with them. Certainly, the teenagers have multiple problems. Most of the time, 60 or 70 percent of the time, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, they’re hurting people. And parents are confused because they’re basically getting one message from medical and mental-health professionals and that is 'affirm people,'" he said.

The psychiatrist was particularly compelled to speak because he was nearing the end of his career and if someone like him could be ousted it would be extremely difficult for younger professionals if they held and espoused similar views. Josephson also expressed concern with how quickly the medicalization of gender has taken off.

"There are now over 50 gender clinics in the United States. These were unheard of seven or eight years ago. And they’re set up real, almost like — if I may use a crude analogy — a restaurant where a person comes in and orders a treatment," he told National Review.

"Doctors have always said — you give me the symptoms, and I’ll help you with what I think is going on for the diagnosis. But that basic process is being short-circuited by a 'this is my diagnosis; this is what I have' approach. And literally they’re asking for hormones. And amazingly, doctors are going along with it in many cases. I think it’s a travesty of our profession."

Writing on his blog Monday, theologian and Boyce College professor Denny Burk noted that what Josephson faced is typical when resisting the goals of LGBT activists.

"Any doctor who dares speak up against this anti-science propaganda risks losing his job and livelihood. This is how LGBT activists win. They silence and intimidate all opposition to their ideology. That is what they have done to Dr. Josephson, and that is what they are doing everywhere they can," he said.

"It’s hard to believe that this is where we are, but it’s true."

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