Man sues LA college over anti-gay-marriage speech

LOS ANGELES

A community college student has filed a lawsuit claiming a public speaking professor berated him and refused to let him finish a speech opposing same-sex marriage.

In the suit filed last week in a Los Angeles federal court, student Jonathan Lopez said that, midway through his speech when he recited a dictionary definition of marriage and recited a pair of Bible verses, professor John Matteson cut him off, called him a “fascist bastard” and would not allow him to finish.

The suit says Matteson told students they could leave if they were offended, and, when no one left, he dismissed the class.

A student evaluation form included with the lawsuit lacks a score for Lopez’s speech and reads “ask God what your grade is.”

Lopez and his attorneys are seeking financial damages and also seek to strike down a code at Los Angeles City College forbidding students from making statements deemed “offensive.”

Lopez made the speech last November, days after the passage of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.

“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,” David J. Hacker, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that is representing Lopez, told The Los Angeles Times. “Basically, colleges and universities should give Christian students the same rights to free expression as other students.”

In a letter to Alliance, Dean Allison Jones said she had met with Lopez, considered his complaint “extremely serious in nature,” and had begun a disciplinary investigation. Jones said in the letter that she could not elaborate because of concerns for Matteson’s privacy.

Jones wrote that two students had been “deeply offended” by the speech, and one of them said “this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom.”

The lawsuit names Matteson, the Los Angeles Community College District, its board of trustees, and several administrators.

Phone and e-mail messages left for Matteson were not immediately returned early Monday, and the offices of the Los Angeles Community College District were closed for the Presidents Day holiday.

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