Lawsuit filed after speech met with: ‘Ask God what your grade is’
By Bob Unruh
A student at Los Angeles City College has filed a lawsuit against the institution after a professor called him a “fascist b——” and told him to “Ask God what your grade is” following the student’s speech about morality.
The case has been filed by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Jonathan Lopez after his encounter with Professor John Matteson in a speech class.
The lawsuit alleges Lopez was participating in a class assignment to give a speech on “any topic” from six to eight minutes.
“During the November, 24, 2008 class, Mr. Lopez delivered an informative speech on God and the ways in which Mr. Lopez has seen God act both in his life and in the lives of others through miracles. In the middle of the speech, he addressed the issues of God and morality; thus, he referred to the dictionary definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and also read a passage from the Bible discussing marriage,” the ADF explained.
At that point, the professor interrupted him and refused to allow him to finish his speech, ADF said. Matteson then called Lopez a ‘fascist b——” and dismissed the class.
Later, the professor left an evaluation form on Lopez’s backpack without a grade, instructing him to “Ask God what your grade is.”
Professor’s grading of student’s speech
The professor also warned on the evaluation form, “proselytizing is inappropriate in public school.”
Yet several weeks earlier, Matteson has announced to the class, in connection to the California vote Nov. 4 in support of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman only, that, “if you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist b——.”
A spokeswoman for the school said she had consulted with the school’s legal counsel, and since they had just been notified of the case, they would have no comment.
David French, a senior counsel with the ADF, however, was critical of the school’s actions.
“Public institutions of higher learning cannot selectively censor Christian speech,” he said. “This student was speaking well within the confines of his professor’s assignment when he was censored and ultimately threatened with expulsion.”
The threat reportedly came when Matteson saw Lopez talking to the college’s dean of academic affairs and then said , “he would make sure he’d be expelled from school.”
“Professor Matteson clearly violated Mr. Lopez’s free speech rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliation because he disagreed with the student’s religious beliefs,” said French. “When students are given open-ended assignments in a public speaking class, the First Amendment protects their ability to express their views. Moreover, the district has a speech code that has created a culture of censorship on campus. America’s public universities and colleges are supposed to be a ‘marketplace of ideas,’ not a hotbed of intolerance.”
The ADF earlier had written to academic dean Allison Jones about the case, asking for a resolution.
The letter argued the First Amendment protects religious speech and the government may not suppress speech on public campuses. It also cited the professor’s refusal to grade the speech as viewpoint discrimination.
Jones responded that the situation was a concern to the school but told the ADF that two other students also had objected to the content of Lopez’ speech. She also said she had started a “progressive discipline” procedure in the case, but because of the “privacy” of the professor, she would not share information about it.