On March 20, 2023, the Center for Individual Rights filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Daniel Mattson, a former adjunct faculty member and musical performer at Western Michigan University. WMU officials fired Mattson in 2021 over his off-work writing on the subject of same-sex attraction, Catholicism, and Christianity.
Mattson is a world-class trombonist who performed with different school-affiliated ensembles at WMU since 1999. Unrelated to his work at WMU, Mattson wrote an autobiographical book in 2017 describing his return to Catholicism after spending most of his adulthood in a homosexual lifestyle (Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace). Mattson holds traditional Catholic views on homosexuality and advocates sympathetic engagement with same-sex-attracted individuals.
In the fall of 2021, campus activists discovered Mattson’s writings on Catholicism and same-sex attraction. 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 rolled back Mattson’s responsibilities and assured students that they would not need to perform with Mattson or attend his performances.
Ultimately, WMU declined to renew Mattson’s contract with the school. Even though Mattson never expressed his religious views on campus, he was maligned and punished solely for expressing orthodox Catholic teaching on his own time.
CIR filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The suit alleges that WMU officials and employees violated Mattson’s rights to free speech and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment as well as his right to the equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment.