Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Student Wins Lawsuit Against Anti-Christian Professor

Judge rules college can't censor religious speech for being 'offensive'

A California court has ruled in favor of a student who was insulted for defending traditional marriage and has ordered the college to strike from its website a sexual harassment policy that censors speech deemed "offensive" to homosexual people.

As WND reported, Jonathan Lopez, a student at Los Angeles City College, was delivering a speech on his Christian faith in speech class when Professor John Matteson interrupted him, called him a "fascist b----rd" for mentioning a moral conviction against homosexual marriage and later told him to "ask God what your grade is."

The professor also warned on his evaluation of Lopez's speech, "Proselytizing is inappropriate in public school," and later threatened to have Lopez expelled.

Represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, Lopez sued the Los Angeles City College District, the largest community college system in the U.S., with over 135,000 students.

The lawsuit not only targeted the school over the professor's comments, however, but also sought removal of a campus sexual harassment and speech policy that court documents allege "systematically prohibits and punishes political and religious speech by students that is outside the campus political mainstream."...

The original story from the LA Times

Los Angeles City College student Jonathan Lopez is suing the LA city college district because of how a professor, John Matteson, treated him in class.

From the Los Angeles Times:

A classroom dispute at Los Angeles City College in the emotional aftermath of Proposition 8 has given rise to a lawsuit testing the balance between 1st Amendment rights and school codes on offensive speech.

Student Jonathan Lopez says his professor called him a "fascist bastard" and refused to let him finish his speech against same-sex marriage during a public speaking class last November, weeks after California voters approved the ban on such unions.

When Lopez tried to find out his mark for the speech, the professor, John Matteson, allegedly told him to "ask God what your grade is," the suit says.

Lopez also said the teacher threatened to have him expelled when he complained to higher-ups.

In addition to financial damages, the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks to strike down a sexual harassment code barring students from uttering "offensive" statements.

...Lopez, a Los Angeles resident working toward an associate of arts degree, is described in the suit as a Christian who considers it a religious duty to share his beliefs, particularly with other students. He declined to comment. Matteson could not be reached.

Lopez is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and co-founded by evangelical leader James Dobson of Focus on the Family. The group also advised proponents of Proposition 8 and sued, unsuccessfully, to stop the release of the names and addresses of donors, who said they had been harassed during the weeks of demonstrations that followed the measure's passage.

Alliance staff counsel David J. Hacker said Lopez was a victim of religious discrimination.

"He was expressing his faith during an open-ended assignment, but when the professor disagreed with some minor things he mentioned, the professor shut him down," Hacker said. "Basically, colleges and universities should give Christian students the same rights to free expression as other students."

[I]n a letter to Alliance, the district said it deemed Lopez's complaint "extremely serious in nature" and had launched a private disciplinary process.

In the letter, Dean Allison Jones also said that two students had been "deeply offended" by Lopez's address, one of whom stated that "this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom."

Hacker said the district's response was inadequate.

"What they didn't do was ensure this wouldn't happen to other students," he said. "The dean accused Jonathan of offending other students."...