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Old 02-16-2009, 12:10 PM   #1
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College Student Sues Over His Anti Gay Marriage Speech

From the Los Angeles Times

Student sues L.A. City College district over gay-marriage speech

Weeks after Proposition 8 passed, student says, his public-speaking professor reacted inappropriately to his stance against same-sex unions. His lawyer alleges religious discrimination.

By Gale Holland

February 16, 2009

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.

Jean-Paul Jassy, a 1st Amendment lawyer in Los Angeles, said a number of cases have explored the tension between offensive speech and the expression of religious views. Often, he said, the decision depends on the specifics of the situation.

"Free speech really thrives when people are going back and forth, disagreeing sometimes and sometimes finding things each other says offensive, but there are limits, particularly in a school setting," Jassy said after reviewing the lawsuit.

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."

Hacker said Alliance filed a similar suit in 2006 against Missouri State University over the school's attempt to discipline a Christian social-work student who refused to support adoptions by same-sex couples. The college settled the suit by, among other things, ordering an external review of the social-work program, Hacker said.

The Los Angeles Community College District's offices were closed Friday for the Presidents Day holiday, and the general counsel, Camille A. Goulet, could not be reached. But in 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."

The suit names the Los Angeles Community College District, which operates nine campuses including L.A. City College; its board of trustees; Matteson; and various administrators. Lopez is asking for a jury trial.
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Old 02-16-2009, 01:04 PM   #2
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Both sides are wrong...
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Old 02-16-2009, 01:34 PM   #3
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Both sides are wrong...
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Old 02-16-2009, 02:10 PM   #4
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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.

unprofessional, yet awesome. i don't condone it, but i applaud it. in my mind.
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Old 02-16-2009, 02:14 PM   #5
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I've been following this in the Times. I wish the prof had handled it more professionally, because I'm really sick and tired of this kind of bullshit hiding behind God and "freedom of speech." If this little fucker had gotten up and made this kind of speech about intermarriage between Jews and Christians, I doubt that there would be Dobson and his pals rushing to this kid's defense. At least not so publicly, anyway.
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Old 02-16-2009, 02:30 PM   #6
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phhht, I'd have happily gotten there before the professor in expressing my utter disgrace towards the prejudice moron. love is love. he got a problem with the fact that it can be between man and man, woman and woman?
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Old 02-16-2009, 03:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by MrsSpringsteen View Post
"Free speech really thrives when people are going back and forth, disagreeing sometimes and sometimes finding things each other says offensive, but there are limits, particularly in a school setting," Jassy said after reviewing the lawsuit.
"The definition of marriage should be limited to one man and one woman."

"You're a fascist bastard."

Back, forth, disagreeing, being offended...sounds like free speech is thriving - with the exception of the prof not letting him finish.
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Old 02-16-2009, 04:30 PM   #8
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the little idiot can say whatever he wants in an assignment like that.

it seems the professor is in the professional wrong here.

still, aren't the conservatives supposed to be against such frivolous lawsuits? every time the ACLU so much as passes wind, we hear about it. could it be that there's a different standard at play when Inalienable Christian Rights are somehow at stake?
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Old 02-16-2009, 04:57 PM   #9
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could it be that there's a different standard at play when Inalienable Christian Rights are somehow at stake?
It's funny, isn't it? They love to sue when they somehow think they're being prevented from spewing their "free speech" all over the place, but it's perfectly all right to actually remove people from constitutional protection.
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Old 02-16-2009, 05:12 PM   #10
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According to the complaint, Lopez opened his speech by "discuss[ing] the topic of God and the way in which he has witnessed God act both in his life and in the lives of others through miracles. His speech included a description of his religious views. In the middle of the speech, Mr. Lopez...also read two verses from the Bible." That is proselytizing; it is not an informative speech as called for by the assignment. An informative speech might have been, e.g., Lopez announcing his intent to explain the Christian case against gay marriage then laying out the points of that argument (though even that might be borderline, since informative speeches aren't really supposed to be argumentative in nature; they are usually how-tos). His personal feelings that God has worked miracles in his own life and that of others, etc. are irrelevant to the assignment, and as far as it goes, going on about them would be justified cause for marking him down. (And it would be interesting to know which Bible verses he cited; Leviticus 20:13, for example, could easily be taken as highly inflammatory in a context that gave the impression it was the speaker's own view, since it recommends execution.)

The way Matteson handled the situation, if the allegations are correct, was of course completely unacceptable from a professional conduct standpoint. But the argument that he violated Lopez's First Amendment rights is ridiculous; by that logic, Lopez also had the right to use slurs, profanity and pretty much whatever else he liked in his 'informative speech.' A classroom is not a public forum; I have the right to interrupt a student's presentation and demand that he or she stop--which is not the same thing as saying I should pay no professional consequences for doing that in a hostile and threatening manner, or for employing that privilege injudiciously.

Letter sent from the Dean to the student's lawyer, Dec. 4:
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December 4, 2008
David J. Hacker
Litigation Staff Counsel
ADF Center for Academic Freedom


Dear Mr. Hacker:
I am in receipt of your letter concerning allegations that Mr. Jonathan Lopez’ first amendment rights were violated in his Speech 101 class that is taught by Professor John Matteson. Let me set the record straight.

You wrote, “Although Mr. Lopez notified LACC of this untenable situation, these violations have gone uncorrected.” This statement is incorrect. I have met twice with Mr. Lopez; once in the hallway as I was going to a scheduled meeting and once in my office when I invited him in for an unscheduled meeting. I listened to his complaint and asked him to put it in writing. He did so. On another day he approached me in the hallway and indicated he had an additional concern to add to his initial complaint. Since I was on the way to a scheduled meeting, I asked him to send it to me in writing via email. I also asked him to provide supporting documentation from students whom he indicated supported his accounting of the classroom incident with Mr. Matteson. He indicated he would. Instead, he chose to involve your organization.

Upon my first meeting with Mr. Lopez I assured him that I was going to start the progressive discipline process immediately; which I have done. I further told him that in order to do so, I would need written statements. He provided me with the first statement but chose to use you to provide the additional complaint.

I view this classroom incident to be extremely serious in nature and will be able to expedite the process. However, since this is a personnel matter, I cannot violate Mr. Matteson’s privacy. Suffice it to say, action is being taken, but specific details may not be shared with Mr. Lopez or you. Let me make this perfectly clear, in no way have Mr. Lopez’ concerns been ignored. On the contrary, LACC administration takes all complaints seriously. Please be aware that the Los Angeles Community College District has a contractual obligation to follow the guidelines of the AFT Local 1521 faculty contract which outlines specific procedures for progressive disciplinary action.

Furthermore, you should be aware, that today I received statements from two students which were signed by several members of Mr. Lopez’ class. Contrary to Mr. Lopez’ assumptions, these classmates were deeply offended by his speech. One of the students stated that “His speech was not of the informative style that our assignment called for, but rather a preachy, persuasive speech that was completely inappropriate and deeply offensive. I respect his right to freedom of speech, but I also do not believe that our classroom is the proper platform for him to spout his hateful propaganda.” The second student said “I don’t know what kind of actions can be taken in this situation, but I expect that this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom.” Where do we go from here? Regardless of the other students’ reactions to Mr. Lopez’ speech, Mr. Matteson will still be disciplined. First amendment rights will not be violated as is evidenced by the fact that even though many of the students were offended by Mr. Lopez’ speech, no action will be taken against any of them for expressing their opinions.

Please be advised that Mr. Lopez, at our first meeting, asked me if he should drop the class. I recommended that he stay in the class since the end of the semester is imminent. I also assured him that he would receive a fair grade for the speech in question, as well as a fair grade for the entire class.

Should you have any further questions please feel free to contact me. I gave Mr. Lopez my business card and asked him to stay in touch until the matter of his grade is resolved.


Cordially,
Allison Jones
Dean, Academic Affairs
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Old 02-16-2009, 06:03 PM   #11
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Allison Jones seems like a nice lady.
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Old 02-17-2009, 12:08 PM   #12
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A little different situation, but it seemed to fit in this discussion.

Watch this bishop. He's getting a national reputation. He's the bishop who threatened to deny Biden (and I guess, Casey) communion recently.

Quote:
Posted: February 17
Updated: Today at 9:26 AM
Bishop: Misericordia wrong to host writer
Responding to Martino’s stance on gay-rights advocate’s visit, school says it is committed to Catholic mission but also to exploring ideas.
By Mark Guydishmguydish@timesleader.com
Education Reporter

SCRANTON – Bishop Joseph Martino issued a stinging statement Monday saying Misericordia University “is seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity” by having author Keith Boykin speak at the school today.

The statement calls Boykin’s stance on homosexual issues “disturbingly opposed to Catholic moral teaching.”

Misericordia countered that Boykin’s appearance “is not meant to be a forum for advocacy on any singular issue,” and that the university “is committed deeply to its Catholic Mission” but is also “an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely.”

The diocesan statement focuses on Boykin’s authorship of three books that were each nominated for a Lambda literary award.

“Lambda is a legal advocacy effort for homosexual causes,” the statement says. Martino “wants Catholics of the Diocese of Scranton to know of his absolute disapproval of Misericordia University’s hosting Mr. Boykin.”

On its Web site, the Lambda Literary Foundation describes itself as “the country’s leading organization of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) literature.”

The diocese contends that allowing Boykin to speak means “the University has rejected all four essential characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning. These are: its Christian inspiration, its obligation to reflect on knowledge in light of the Catholic faith, its fidelity to Catholic Church teaching and its commitment to serve the people of God.”

Boykin is appearing at Misericordia today under the auspices of the school’s Diversity Institute. A university news release issued Jan. 29 billed him as a “political commentator” and “New York Times best-selling author and founder of the National Black Justice Coalition.”

Boykin, who is black, is touted as “a law school classmate of President Barrack Obama” as well as “a frequent contributor to CNBC.” Former President Bill Clinton appointed Boykin, Coretta Scott King and the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the U.S. presidential trade delegation to Zimbabwe. He will make two public appearances at Misericordia, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

A Misericordia response to the diocesan statement noted that the “university and its founders and sponsors, the Religious Sisters of Mercy, honor the traditions and core values of the Catholic Church and are committed to its teachings.” The statement also said that Misericordia “is committed deeply to its Catholic mission. Inseparable from that mission is our identity as an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely.”

To read both statements, visit www.times

leader.com.

Mark Guydish, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7161

Be interesting to see how far-reaching stances like this will be and how the Catholic universities will hold out.
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Old 02-17-2009, 02:04 PM   #13
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“an academic institution where ideas and positions are explored critically and freely.”
With the current Pope the position of the bishop seems more welcome than the position of the university.
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Old 02-17-2009, 03:36 PM   #14
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I think Martino is playing the role of a papal attack dog.
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Old 02-17-2009, 05:31 PM   #15
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With the current Pope the position of the bishop seems more welcome than the position of the university.
Please, the pope is open minded, witness how willing he is to accommodate schismatic anti-semites.
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