By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
December 28, 2022
A popular professor filed a federal lawsuit this month claiming he was fired by the North Carolina Governor’s School for speaking out against what is often called critical race theory or critical theory.
David Phillips, an English professor who teaches at multiple colleges and universities, served as a teacher for eight summers at the North Carolina Governor’s School, a program for the state’s most talented rising high school seniors.
He was fired during the summer of 2021 after delivering three optional courses critiquing critical theory and ideological bias.
The lawsuit names, as plaintiffs, individuals within the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the North Carolina Governor’s School.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Phillips.
“In an academic environment committed to exploring a wide range of differing viewpoints, as the Governor’s School claims to be, no teacher should be fired for offering a reasoned critique of critical theory. But that’s what happened to Dr. Phillips,” said ADF senior counsel Hal Frampton.
The lawsuit claims that the Governor’s School, over several years, embraced concepts sometimes known as “critical theory” or “critical race theory,” which views “everyone and everything through the lens of characteristics like race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion,” the suit says.
Phillips went against the grain.
The Governor’s School taught students that racism “is defined as anything that perpetuates an unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power between white people and people of color,” according to the suit. Further, students learned that racism “can only be committed by white people” and that “any questioning of critical theory or its concepts by a white person is an expression of ‘white fragility,’ which functions to perpetuate racism,” the suit says
According to the suit, students also learned that:
— “People with certain characteristics, such as being a person of color, female, transgender, homosexual, and/or non-Christian, are oppressed by virtue of these characteristics alone.”
— “Students with ‘privileged’ characteristics are encouraged to recognize and confess their privilege to their peers and teachers.
— “Gender is not binary but rather exists on a spectrum and is based on a person’s felt identity.”
Phillips — concerned about the direction of the program — delivered three optional lectures during the summer of 2021. The subjects included 1) a “social psychology critique of some concepts from critical theory;” 2) “understanding speech through the lens of speech-act theory;” and 3) the “increasing ideological bias and lack of viewpoint diversity in higher education.”
Phillips always “encouraged his students to think for themselves,” the suit says.
“At the conclusion of each lecture, members of the audience including staff members reacted with open hostility to the ideas and viewpoints discussed,” the suit says. “And they attacked whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and Christianity — none of which should have been relevant in their comments and questions.
“Despite the hostility, Dr. Phillips stayed long after the published end time for each lecture to respond calmly to each question, and he even offered to meet with students and staff members later for further discussion,” the suit says.
The day after his third lecture, Phillips was fired “without warning or explanation,” the suit says.
“Later, Dr. Phillips learned that a few staff members had complained about the content of the optional seminars,” the suit says. “But instead of investigating these complaints, determining if any policies were violated, or addressing any concerns with Dr. Phillips indeed without even giving Dr. Phillips an opportunity to hear the complaints and respond Defendants took their own stand against viewpoint diversity by firing Dr. Phillips because they disagreed with his views.”
The lawsuit claims the state “trampled on his constitutional right to free speech” and “retaliated against him” for “refusing to adopt Defendants’ radical ideology, and discriminated against him because of his race, sex, and religion.”
“There is no lawful explanation for the way North Carolina public school officials treated Dr. Phillips,” said Frampton, the ADF attorney. “He was beloved, respected, and regarded by both students and faculty as an advocate for students who felt that their voices weren’t being heard and their perspectives weren’t welcomed at the Governor’s School. By firing him, the Governor’s School violated his constitutional right to free speech and unlawfully retaliated against him for deviating from the Governor’s School’s ideological orthodoxy.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said Dr. Phillips had committed what progressives consider the unpardonable sin.
“He has had the audacity to challenge this damnable doctrine of devils which will irrevocably destroy true democracy and infect the souls of our citizens of color with hatred for all things white,” said Rev. Creech. “God bless this man. We need more courageous individuals of his tribe. May the Lord give him victory with his lawsuit. If he wins, it will be a victory for all of us.”