Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ADF: Christian student called a "fascist bastard"

Religious Freedom at Risk on Tax-funded College Campuses

ADF Defends Censored Christian Student

Jonathan Lopez is working toward an associate of arts degree at Los Angeles City College in California. One of his required classes: Public Speaking. The additional lesson in his free speech rights was not something he anticipated.

In that class, Lopez delivered one of his assignments – an informative speech. Lopez chose the topic of faith and marriage. Mid-way through, his speech professor John Matteson interrupted, calling Lopez a "fascist bastard" in front of the class for speaking about his faith,
Romans 10:9 "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Matthew 22:37-38 "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.'"

Bible verses quoted by Lopez in his speech

which included reading the dictionary definition of marriage and reciting two Bible verses. Instead of allowing Lopez to finish, Matteson told the other students they could leave if they were offended. When no one left, Matteson dismissed the class. Refusing to grade the assigned speech, Matteson wrote on Lopez's evaluation, "Ask God what your grade is." Click here to see it.

"Christian students shouldn't be penalized or discriminated against for speaking about their beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel David French. "Public institutions of higher learning cannot selectively censor Christian speech. This student was speaking well within the confines of his professor's assignment when he was censored."

But the harassment did not stop in class. One week later, after seeing Lopez talking to the college's dean of academic affairs, Matteson told Lopez that he would make sure he'd be expelled from school.

Further, Matteson's treatment of Lopez during his speech follows an earlier incident in which the speech professor told his entire class after the November election, "If you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist bastard."
"Colleges are supposed to be safe for free speech and the discussion of many ideas. What has happened to me is an assault on my constitutional rights. A victory in this case will guarantee that every student who attends the school now and in the future is allowed to freely express their beliefs, religious or otherwise, without fear."

- Jonathan Lopez
ADF Client

"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."

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom have filed a lawsuit against officials of the Los Angeles Community College District in regard to this situation. You can read the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in the lawsuit Lopez v. Candaele by clicking here.

Unfortunately, Jonathan Lopez is not alone. College students across the country are finding it difficult to stand up for their faith, to refuse assignments that contradict their conscience, to question their instructors. The Alliance Defense Fund is committed to helping Christian students express their beliefs on campus. To date, by God s grace, we have not lost one case litigated to conclusion concerning expression of religious freedom on campus. Learn about more of our cases through the links below.

We offer legal services to Jonathan Lopez and those like him, free of charge. Donate today so we can continue winning and supporting religious liberty on our nation's campuses.

Religious Freedom on Campus

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