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Fired Professor, Conspiracy Theorist Sues FAU

(CN) — A former Florida Atlantic University professor and unapologetic conspiracy theorist claims in court that he was unlawfully fired because of his ideas.

In his federal complaint, James Tracy continues to espouse the ideas that upset the university administration namely that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was "an alleged mass casualty" that received incomplete national media coverage and "continues to be used ... to misappropriate massive amounts of public tax dollars and charitable donations from sympathizers and unsuspecting Americans, and to promote and install irrational and unconstitutional reforms upon the American public."

Tracy communicated his beliefs through a personal blog and other internet posts. He says despite his being told his writing was constitutionally protected free speech, he soon became subject to a new university policy that requires "outside activities" with potential conflicts of interest be reported.

Tracy was fired in January for failing to submit

Before that, he had been a tenured profession of communications, media and conspiracy studies at FAU for more than a decade.

Tracy is asking the court to reinstate him, arguing that his dismissal "violated his constitutional rights to due process and free speech, and trampled on long-standing principles of academic freedom."

In addition, the suit says Tracy has sustained economic and reputational damage as a result of the purported wrongful termination.

"His academic career has been destroyed," the complaint says.

FAU officials weren't immediately available to comment on the pending litigation, but the saga has been well documented in the press since 2013, when the Sun-Sentinel newspaper began publishing opinion columns criticizing Tracy and suggesting he resign.

At that point, the university "began searching for ways and means to discipline and terminate him" according to Tracy's complaint.

The professor was reprimanded and told that he needed to make clear that his personal blog — "Memory Hole: Reflections on Media and Politics" — and the views he expressed on it, were not affiliated with the university. He says he complied with that request in 2013.

However, his blog posts continued, though, with questions about the veracity of national tragedies such as the Boston Marathon bombings and the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

For three years, Tracy cast a skeptical eye on Sandy Hook media reports and public documents, including coroner's reports.

When Larry Pozner, the father of victim Noah Pozner, wrote to Tracy and asked him to stop using a photograph of his dead son in connection with blog posts, the professor responded with a certified letter requesting Pozner's proof of identity, proof of relationship to his son, and proof that he owned the photograph in question. Online, he referred to the Pozners as "alleged parents" and said they had faked Noah's death certificate and profited off his death.

In December of last year, the Sun-Sentinel published another opinion column entitled "Tenure be damned, Professor James Tracy embarrasses FAU."

"Should professors be able to espouse hurtful and offensive opinions while hiding behind the protective shields of academic freedom and tenure?" the editorial board asked. "In our view, academic freedom is not a license to do or say whatever you want, consequences be damned. So we welcome the termination proceedings begun against Tracy this week by FAU."

The editorial raised questions about whether tenure should exist at all, in light of the Tracy debacle.

"Tenure is not immunity," Jeffrey Morton, Ph.D., a tenured FAU professor of International Law, told the newspaper in an email. "His harassment of the parents of murdered children was vulgar, repulsive and an insult to the academic profession."

In addition to reinstatement, Tracy asks the court to declare the university's "outside activities" policy — which he says he did not understand — unconstitutional. He is also seeking unspecified damages.

Tracy is represented by Louis Leo IV and Joel Medgebow of Florida Civil Rights Coalition, P.L.L.C. & Medgebow Law, P.A. in Coconut Creek, Florida.

Lisa Metcalf, chief press officer for the university, told Courthouse News in an email "We do not comment on pending litigation, and it's too early to estimate how much James Tracy will cost the taxpayer for Florida Atlantic University to defend any lawsuit.

"Nevertheless, many talented and dedicated people at FAU work tirelessly every day to improve the overall reputation of the university and enhance the student experience in every way possible, and those efforts will continue," she said.

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