Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Religious Freedom at Risk? (part I)

Many "progressives" seem genuinely concerned that the "religious right" poses a threat to religious liberty, when in fact the few instances when the free expression of religious faith were impeded involved the left. Here is another example of the anti-Christian spirit and hostility towards intellectual diversity found in some academic institutions.

Religious Freedom at Risk on Tax-funded College Campuses ADF Defends Censored Christian Student

To listen to interview click here:

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 was assigned to deliver 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, 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."

"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, or 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.

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