Musician Fired for Catholicism Vindicated with Substantial Settlement

On October 4, CIR secured an important free speech and religious liberty victory for Daniel Mattson, an adjunct music professor at Western Michigan University who lost his job for expressing his religious views off campus on his own time. CIR filed suit in March and, a short seven months later, reached a favorable settlement agreement for Mattson.

Mattson is a professional trombonist who has also served as an adjunct faculty member at WMU since 1999. In his personal life, Mattson returned to traditional Catholic teaching in 2009. Mattson had identified as gay for most of his adult life, but following his return to faith, he stopped identifying as gay and committed to a chaste lifestyle.

Mattson chronicled his religious reflections in Catholic and conservative media outlets and ultimately wrote a book about his experience in 2017, Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay: How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace. The book received favorable reviews for its honesty and thoughtful, sympathetic reflections on his experience with homosexuality.

Though Mattson thoroughly compartmentalized his religious writing and university work, activists on campus discovered Mattson’s writings four years after the publication of his book and pressured the school to take wrongful action that effectively “canceled” Mattson on campus. In short order, the school sent a campus-wide email condemning Mattson’s views, ensured students that they would not need to attend his ordinarily mandatory performances, and ultimately declined to renew his contract.

After seven months of litigation, WMU chose settlement over any serious defense of conduct. It agreed to a favorable settlement that fully compensated Mattson for his unfair and unlawful dismissal. Victories like this send a clear message to activist administrators that they will pay a steep cost for capitulating to “offended” campus activist groups.