"Ask God what your grade is"
February 16, 2009
Last fall, when assigned to give an informative speech on any topic, student Jonathan Lopez delivered a speech to his Speech 101 class in which he spoke about his own religious views and experience. Unfortunately for Lopez, his professor, John Matteson, did not appreciate this example of an informative speech and refused to grade him for it, instead advising him to "Ask God what your grade is." He even put this "evaluation" in writing.
It should surprise no one that the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed suit against the school for this blatant censorship. ADF Senior Counsel and former FIRE President David French remarked:
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. Moreover, the district has a speech code that has created a culture of censorship on campus.
Based on the details currently available, this case seems like a no-brainer. The Los Angeles Community College District would be wise to settle this one quickly and dump its speech code as well. It's hard to imagine any valid defense to this sort of behavior on the part of a public college.