Jonathan Lopez is a Christian. He is also a student at Los Angeles City College (LACC) in Los Angeles, California. During the fall 2008 semester, Lopez took an Introduction to Public Speaking (Speech 101) class. It was taught by one John Matteson.
In Speech 101 there are several different speaking assignments, including a delivery speech, a culture speech, an informative speech, and a persuasive speech. For the informative speech, Professor Matteson allowed students to cover any topic and to speak between six and eight minutes with or without visual aids.
In November, Jonathan Lopez attempted to give his informative speech on God and the ways he has seen God act miraculously in his life and in the lives of others. In the middle of that speech, Lopez spoke of God and morality and read the dictionary definition of marriage. He also read two verses from the Bible.
But before Lopez was finished with his speech, Professor Matteson interrupted him. After calling Lopez a “fascist bastard” in front of other students, Matteson invited students to leave the class if they had been offended. When no one left, the professor dismissed the entire class.
As Jonathan Lopez prepared to leave class that day he found an evaluation form left in his backpack by Professor Matteson. There was no grade for the informative speech. Instead there was this instruction: “Ask God what your grade is.” It was followed by a statement saying that “prostyelsyszing [sic] is inappropriate in a public school.”
Professor Matteson’s evaluation did not mention that it is “inappropriate” to censor the speech of those belonging to a protected class. Nor did it mention that it is “inappropriate” to do these things while acting under the color of state law.
This was not the first time Professor Matteson’s animus towards Christians had been on display. Several weeks before the aforementioned incident, he told students the following: “If you voted yes on Proposition 8, you are a fascist bastard.”
Naturally, the combined effect of Professor Matteson’s remarks about Proposition 8 and his remarks about Lopez’ informative speech have created a chilling effect on First Amendment expression. It is likely that students other than Lopez are refraining from expressing political, religious, and social beliefs not in line with Professor Matteson’s.
This chilling effect led Jonathan Lopez to meet, in late November, with Allison Jones, Dean of Academic Affairs at LACC. But the problems continued.
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