tossed out

Court: Professor Calling You A ‘Fascist Bastard’ For a Pro-Prop 8 Speech Is Not a Legal Matter


Jonathan Lopez is the Los Angeles City College student whose professor John Matteson cut short, in the days after 2008’s Prop 8 decision, Lopez’s classroom speech on the definition of marriage and what the Bible thinks of homogays. Lopez sued for financial damages, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated after Mattseon berated him and called him (and anyone who voted for Prop 8) a “fascist bastard.” And while a lower court approved Lopez’s suit, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just told him to get the F out of their stack of paperwork in a unanimous decision to dismiss the case, saying Lopez, represented by the gasbags at the Alliance Defense Fund, failed to show he was harmed by Mattseon, uh, speaking the truth.

Still unknown: What grade Lopez received for his speech. When he asked Mattseon what his mark would be, the professor (according to ADF) replied, “Ask God what your grade is.” Well God isn’t telling us.

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  • Shawneeboy

    I see no reason to celebrate someone’s opinion being shut-down even if I think it’s stupid.

  • McMike

    @Shawneeboy: Maybe because the teacher was a homosexual? Maybe because there were homosexual students sitting in the class? Do you think it’d be appropriate for a racist to give a speech in class in front of black students about how blacks should still be slaves?

  • J. Clarence

    @McMike: Appropriate isn’t the question at the heart of this, it is whether or not it is legal. I don’t think Lopez’s first amendment rights were violated–he was just screamed at–but certainly if he has an opinion, however unfounded and misguided, he should have the right to say it.

    The KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church have every right to hold a rally in the town square, so every homophobic college student should have every right to pick their beliefs as a classroom speech.

    The professor should be reprimanded for breach of professional ethics and decorum though. There’s no need for an educator to behave like that.

  • littlebylittle

    @J. Clarence: The First Amendment protects citizens from having their speech abridged by the government. It does not protect students from being shut down or corrected by teachers or professors. Students do not have the right to say whatever they want in the classroom, where there are academic standards for what is acceptable, appropriate, or adequate in scholarly discourse. In fact, it is the educator’s duty to educate.

  • HoosierBoy

    @LITTLEBYLITTLE You are exactly right…. Thank you! You don’t have 1st amendment rights inside a classroom! This whole thing is getting a tad bit ridiculous

  • J. Clarence

    @littlebylittle: Well, for starters this was at a public community college, so students’ constitutional rights, in particular the 1st, are treated more sensitively. So if a professor, in their capacity as an employee of the state, attempted to prohibit a student from expressing their views it becomes a different story than at a private institution.

    Also I think we all would be hard pressed to find any college administrator who would agree that a policy that would stipulate that a student expressing their (conservative) ideological views, as part of a classroom assignment, would be a breach of academic, appropriate, or scholarly standards. And if those were the standards at Los Angeles City College the professor didn’t need to call the Lopez a “fascist bastard”, all he would have to do is tell Lopez to sit down because he is breaching academic standards, etc.

    All of that being said, I said in my bit that I don’t think Lopez’s 1st amendment rights were violated to begin with.

    And look you will fail as an educator if your opener to “what’s the problem with your ideology” is to tell a student that s/he is a “fascist bastard”.

  • Baxter

    @HoosierBoy: Actually the case law is somewhat contradictory on how much of the First Amendment applies to students in a public school classroom. In general, it seems that students have a right to free speech as long as it doesn’t substantially disrupt the school environment. I don’t see any way that people could argue that this guy giving a speech as part of a class assignment was disruptive. The professor was a total douche and should be fired.

  • DR


    Ahhh, but if a gay student would have given a speech on how the folks who voted for Prop 8 were in the wrong and the professor called him a “fascist bastard”, you’d be demanding the professor’s head and tenure, an “A+++” for the student, and he’d probably end up the grand marshal of a parade somewhere.

    Double standard much?

  • Mike in Asheville

    It is certainly clear that the Fright Wing have done an excellent job of misleading the public about what the First Amendment is all about. The Sara Palins of the world go on screaming their cries that those who are against their opinions/policies are abusing the first amendment. Just like the idiotic and false claims last month by Dr. Laura that boycotters of her show are somehow infringing her rights.

    It is also clear that our school systems have failed to give our population a proper education about civics and our constitution. The old saying, a little education is a dangerous thing.


    Here, the student has a constitutional right to think and espouse his opinions, however idiotic, without governmental interference, in PUBLIC FORUMS. The Court ruled, essentially, that classwork in the classroom, even in a public school, is not a public forum.

    While I never had a professor opine that my classwork indicated that I was a fascist bastard, there were occasions where the quality of my work was highly criticized.

  • Bobby in Seattle

    I so agree with you, Mike @ #9. I get so sick of hearing people claim their free speech rights are being violated, when in reality, they are free to say, think and feel as they wish, but they are not free from the consequences of such speech. Palin and Dr Laura are excellent examples of this.

    All of my College Professors were in charge of the content/context of their classes. Whether it be a poorly worded speech or written report, the grade reflected the Professor’s way of teaching. The Professor has complete rule over how his/her class is conducted. That’s one of the first things you learn, while attending college; how to conduct yourself with each Professor and how to interpret their style of teaching. Venture outside of their specific style of teaching and your grade reflected it.

    And, frankly, I’m also sick and tired of people using God and the Bible to influence CIVIL LAW. Not everyone believes in their God, or their Bible or its writings. Enough with that, already. It has ABSOLUTELY NO PLACE in Civil matters. NONE.

  • Baxter

    @Mike in Asheville: Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972):

    “Yet the precedents of this Court leave no room for the view that, because of the acknowledged need for order, First Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large. Quite to the contrary, “[t]he vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.” The college classroom, with its surrounding environs, is peculiarly the “marketplace of ideas,'” and we break no new constitutional ground in reaffirming this Nation’s dedication to safeguarding academic freedom.”

  • AL

    It’s not a First Amendment issue since the student was free to give a presentation on whatever he wanted. Nevertheless, it’s an issue of professional conduct on behalf of the college instructor. I am not sure where or not there is any truth to the fact that professor referred to the student as “fascist bastard”, but he had no right to resort to such name calling. It’s totally unprofessional.

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