Academic Freedom Education Free Speech

Jonathan Lopez, LA City College and “Free Speech 101”


In this morning’s editorial the LA Times says, at a bit more length, what we said a week ago
about the case of the the speech making class at LACC, the Christian student, Jonathan Lopez, and the idiot teacher who tried to shut Lopez up.

Here’s a clip or two:

If Lopez’s claims — including allegations that his teacher, John Matteson, called him a “fascist bastard” and told him to “ask God what your grade is” — are accurate, Matteson’s behavior was unconscionable. Even in a college classroom, where there is a tradition of professors provoking lively discussion, his words would be a violation of a professional trust. The teacher also would have crossed a legal line. As Lopez’s lawyers point out in their federal complaint, the courts have ruled that public schools may not discriminate against student speech because it is religious in character.


Some might say that Lopez’s discussion of how his faith shaped his view that marriage is between a man and a woman was polemical, not informative. (A different assignment required students to deliver a “persuasive” speech.) That’s a quibble. Lopez was informing his audience about his views; that they were rooted in religion is irrelevant.

So is the fact that two students were offended by Lopez’s speech, calling it “hateful propaganda” and “preaching hate.” As long as he was opposing same-sex marriage on religious grounds — and not harassing individual students — he was making an argument that figured prominently in the public debate about Proposition 8. It’s not an argument this page finds persuasive, but we wouldn’t try to suppress it. Neither should a college preparing students to live in a contentious democracy.

On Lopez’s evaluation form, Matteson wrote that proselytizing “is inappropriate in public school.” If he’s referring to himself and other teachers, he’s correct. If he’s referring to college students expressing their views in an open forum, he deserves a failing grade in Free Speech 101.


  • My ed. law professor would know better than me, but I think you’re right. Some teachers don’t really understand that students have more free speech rights than they do. From this case, it seems that some students don’t get that either.

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