On November 4, 2008, voters in California passed Proposition 8 which amended their state constitution as follows: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” While Prop 8 ended the attempt to redefine marriage in the Golden State, the backlash by those who support so-called same-sex marriage has been, at times, ugly. Case in point. Jonathan Lopez, a Christian student at Los Angeles City College, found himself publicly ridiculed by his college professor who called Lopez a “fascist b–tard” in front of the other students. Why? For presenting a traditional, faith-based viewpoint on marriage in his public speaking class. Lopez had quoted two verses from the Bible and read the definition of marriage from the dictionary as part of his presentation.
According to a recently filed lawsuit (Lopez v. Candaele) by the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom (ADF), professor John Matteson cut Lopez off mid-speech, refused to allow him to finish, and refused to give him a grade. Instead, writing a note on Lopez’s evaluation sheet, the teacher penned this mean-spirited quip:
“Ask God what your grade is.”
Beyond censoring the speech and mocking Lopez’s faith, when the professor learned that Lopez had appealed to the school officials for mediation, Matteson retaliated by threatening to have Lopez expelled. Ironically, one of the founding principles on the college’s website states:
“We further recognize that academic freedom is essential to excellence in education.”
Evidently, academic freedom stops when a student expresses a religious opinion, one that’s contrary to the beliefs held by his professor. In this case, Matteson had previously voiced his strong opposition to Prop 8 in class saying, “If you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist b–tard.” I submit such verbal intimidation by an educator should have no place in academia.
ADF Senior Counsel David French agrees, saying, “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.” French argues that “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. When students are given open-ended assignments in a public speaking class, the First Amendment protects their ability to express their views.”
As I see it, part of the subtext of the liberal agenda both in academia and in the public square is to quash the freedom of religious expression by labeling it “hate speech” or “discrimination” or “offensive.” If this trend persists unchecked, certain viewpoints, especially faith-based perspectives, will become an anathema.
Beyond the Lopez case, there are signs that the free speech protections American’s have enjoyed for centuries is eroding. (Later this week I’ll highlight another example of this disturbing erosion of our cherished liberties.) Which is why I applaud the work of the Alliance Defense Fund. I encourage you to support and pray for them as they engage in the defense of our religious liberties.