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University student in Mexico could lose license to practice psychology for graduation speech

  • The Autonomous University of Baja California has initiated proceedings against recent graduate, Christian Cortez Pérez, after individuals took offense to his graduation speech.
  • The University Council is considering a petition to withhold his academic merit and professional license to practice psychology, violating Christian’s fundamental right to freedom of speech.

Ensenada, Mexico (9 September 2022) – The Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) responded to complaints against recent graduate, Christian Cortez Pérez, with formal proceedings to ban him from practicing psychology. A group of professors has called on the University to silence and sanction Christian because of the content of his graduation speech.

As the top of his class at the university’s School of Medicine and Psychology, Christian earned the right to deliver the commencement address at his graduation ceremony on June 27, 2022. In his speech, he voiced his deeply held moral convictions regarding the state of the world today on many issues, including the importance of the family and the sanctity of life.

“I exercised my fundamental right to free speech to address my classmates about what I believe are the most pressing issues of our time. Now, I stand to lose my entire professional career because I expressed views with which some students and faculty disagree. Public universities must respect the free speech rights of all students, and I am committed to obtaining justice not just for myself, but for all Mexicans interested in preserving the right to freely express themselves,” stated Christian.

Mounting Backlash

Christian was confronted by loud protesting and walk outs on the part of some students and faculty but was able to deliver the graduation address in full. Since then, he has been the subject of a silencing and sanctioning campaign initiated by the school’s professors, resulting in severe reputational harm and a potential ban on his ability to practice in the field of psychology.

The professors issued a “manifesto” calling on the university to sanction Christian’s so-called “hate speech” by: 1) withholding his professional license, 2) withdrawing his academic merit award, and 3) alerting psychology associations across Mexico regarding his actions.

The professor’s demands, effectively to ban Christian’s professional practice as a psychologist, were presented to the University Council. Christian was informed on August 4th that the university has initiated proceedings against him and has submitted a counterclaim to protect his rightful interests. A judgment from the university is expected in mid-September.

Breach of Fundamental Human Rights

Kristina Hjelkrem, working in support of the case as ADF International’s legal counsel for Latin America, noted the following: “For exercising his basic human rights and expressing views shared by many, Christian faces irreparable reputational damage and a ban on his professional practice, threatening all that he has worked for in his career. If the campaign to punish Christian is successful, it shows that anyone who dares to speak in public in Mexico is in danger. This is a clear violation of international human rights law, reminiscent of dictatorships, not democracies”.

In his speech, Christian called for the rejection of the redefinition of the family and radical gender ideology, stating the following:

“Today we are deep into a real anthropological struggle to redefine the human being, the human person, man, through the implementation of ideologies and fashions of thought that always end up undermining dignity and freedom.”

Christian quoted G.K. Chesterton on the destruction of the family: “People do not know what they are doing; because they do not know what they are undoing”. He further noted that, “to attack life and the family is to self-destruct, it is an attack on civilization itself” calling on his peers to live in solidarity with one another—“you have to love, no one seeks the good of the other if he does not love him”.

“What has happened to Christian is an egregious breach of his fundamental human rights. Students should not fear for their career when they voice their views in an academic setting. It is inappropriate and dangerous for professors to wield sanctioning power over their students, and our hope is that the Autonomous University of Baja California will right this great wrong and take a clear stance in favor of freedom of expression,” stated Carlos Ramirez, lead lawyer for Christian’s case in Mexico.

United States Litigation

Students and professors all over the world find themselves subject to censorship campaigns, often accompanied by legal proceedings, which threaten severe harm to both their reputations and careers.

Academic censorship cases are on the rise. Last year, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 8-1 for college student, Chike Uzuegbunam, after his college prevented him from sharing the Gospel on campus. For more than four years, Chike was involved in a lawsuit against Georgia Gwinnett College. College officials agreed to settle the case, for a total of more than $800,000. In June 2022, the settlement was finalized, giving Chike the justice he deserves.

Litigation is ongoing for Dr. Alan Josephson, a distinguished professor at the University of Louisville, who was effectively fired after he spoke about gender dysphoria at a Heritage Foundation event. Dr. Josephson served as Chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology at the university for nearly 15 years. A few weeks after discussing topics at the Heritage Foundation related to “gender transition” for children, he was swiftly ousted from his leadership position, expressly on account of his expression. For the next year he was subjected to a hostile and discriminatory work environment.

In February 2019, the university informed him that it would not renew his contract. Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on his behalf at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, challenging the University’s actions as violations of Dr. Josephson’s freedom of speech and other constitutionally protected freedoms.

In Virginia, Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit against Loudoun County School Board Policy 8040, which forces teachers to deny truths about what it means to be male and female by using pronouns that are inconsistent with biological sex. Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, was suspended from his position after voicing his opinion about the policy during the public comment period of a school board meeting. With the help of ADF attorneys, Tanner filed a lawsuit against the school district and has been reinstated. Two other Loudoun County teachers, Monica Gill and Kimberly Wright, have joined Tanner in the lawsuit to directly challenge this policy. The case is ongoing.

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