Silenced For Speaking Against Gay Marriage, This College Student Is Suing


We’ve all heard stories or had personal experiences about being discriminated against for talking openly and supportively about gay marriage. Asked to the conversation elsewhere. Told to shut up. Pleaded with to just go away. But what if you’re a student on a university campus, trying to talk openly against gay marriage — and your professor cuts you off in class, refuses to hear your argument, and labels you a “facist bastard” in front of your peers. Well, this is America, so you sue.

In the federal court suit filed last week, student Jonathan Lopez said that midway through his speech [Los Angeles City College in November just after Prop 8 passed], when he quoted a dictionary definition of marriage and recited a pair of Bible verses, professor John Matteson cut him off and would not allow him to finish. He said Matteson also called him a “fascist bastard.”

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

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

But Jones also wrote that two students were “deeply offended” by the speech, and quoted one as saying “this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom.” [IHT]

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  • burger king

    we might disagree but it’s crucial that this kid be allowed to voice his opinion, it’s called freedom of speech folks!

    we americans are so afraid of debate these days, we only associate with those who agree with our points of view and sweep any and all disagreements under the rug with dismissals and insults. if a college classroom is not safe for disagreement and to learn about dialog and debate then we’re in worse trouble than i thought.

  • Darth Paul

    The ‘offended’ students need to wise up and learn to use their brains instead of their emotions in retort.

  • REBELComx

    I can’t really make an opinion on this until I know exactly what the kid said in his speech. It is certainly possible that it devolved into religious rhetoric relying on blatant lies and the pretty standard right wing vileness that any sane person would be offended by. Until we know what the exact content of his speech was, we don’t know if it even was debatable, or just pure hate speech, a la Mr. Phelps. And when such stupidity is being slathered about the room like a mad dog foaming at the mouth, there are only two things you can do – shut them up or make fun of them.
    Personally, I’ll take the Monty Python approach: “Well I think they should attack things like that…with satire.”

  • Larry

    I’m going to have to side with the student, just based on the facts I know. He has a right to his views, no matter how idiotic they are, and the professor was out of line.

  • Larry

    Another thing: This is exactly the sort of incident that the religious right loves to pounce on as “evidence” that there’s some huge conspiracy to silence the poor, downtrodden Christian majority. That was not a smart thing for the professor to do.

  • ConservativeRepublican

    I’m going to have to side with the student here. There were plenty of appropriate replies to this position that would’ve certainly been more enlightening for the class as a whole. Depending on the nature of the course, the professor could’ve engaged the student in a debate over those specific bible verses OR he could’ve asked the student why the Bible should play a role in questions of American law. Calling him a fascist bastard helps no one in the class. In fact, it may have gotten the student some sympathizers. Real smart, teach.

  • Jaroslaw

    Basically, I’m for free speech too, but I also agree with RebelComx. Until we know exactly what was said, it is hard to judge. I suspect it turned into a long Biblical ramble. Frankly, I would hardly think that a college student would need to quote from a dictionary to discuss what marriage is.

    We all know the images we saw on TV, magazines growing up not to mention the vast majority of us were raised in Churches. It seems redundant to the ‘nth degree for this student to drag out the Bible & dictionary and quote from it.

    However, as to him being called a fascist by the teacher, hello! Weren’t there a whole bunch of students in the room? It should be easy to determine exactly what was said.

  • Matt

    This kid has a right to voice his opinion. I disagree with it but if we are allowed to voice our support for gay rights then it’s only fair he gets a say. Also, does anyone think that it is unprofessional for a collage professor to say, “ask god what your grade is.”?

  • roger

    the chronicle of higher education (no right-wing publication by any stretch), is publishing an article about this next week. online discuss at their site leads me to believe that the editorial board will come very close to condemning the teacher’s actions as unprofessional and unethical. the classroom must be a protected space for healthy dissent and discussion. even if the teacher or a few other students disagree or get offended.

    i HAVE to agree with burger king. civil discourse appears to be dead in our society. conservatives only watch bill and sean or listen to rush. liberals only watch keith and rachel or read the huffington post. this is NOT a healthy development.

    i have a diverse circle of friends and we all have very different beliefs. we hold each other accountable. and sometimes, we even change each other’s minds.
    thanks burger king and the others for having such an objective and open-minded perspective about this.

  • Aaron

    @Matt: No, actually, I think that “ask god what your grade is” remake was pretty awesome. Sure it doesn’t help anything and as mentioned incidents like this are more fodder for the other side, but, still “ask god what your grade is”, awesome.

  • Jaroslaw

    Well, Aaron – I don’t know if it was “awesome” but if you’re saying the student was trying to make the class into Bible study and the teacher responded in kind, so be it. I can live with that.

  • getreal

    @burger king: Co-sign. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • getreal

    @Aaron: I have never understood how it is terrible when people make homophobic remarks but awesome when people make christophobic remarks. It’s not they are both equally wrong. Don’t be a hypocrite.

  • John K.

    This kid makes me sick. That said, I agree with most others here that the professor was out of line, and that we cannot allow this to happen unless we want to legitimize the mostly ridiculous arguments coming from the right. Let him speak, and then let the students in the class disassociate themselves from him when they leave the classroom if they so choose.

  • Kid A

    I say let the kid make as much a fool of himself as he sees fit.

  • Alco

    @getreal: I don’t think that’s the same. People are trying to tell you how to live your life based on their beliefs. In the case of gay movement, people are simply asking for equality and I still don’t understand how allowing two gay people to marry is going to threaten the institution of marriage (on a non-religious point of view).

  • Jersey

    So far what we’ve heard of this incident has been pretty one-sided. We have no idea what the guy was saying or how long it took, who knows maybe he spouted off a bunch of worhtless bullshit for 2 hours and the teach cut him off. No-one here knows much about this yet except some accusation made by some christianist. More often than not have’nt we found these people to be less than truthfull?

  • Alco

    Sorry, forgot to write that I do think that what the professor wrote was out-of-line.

  • Jersey

    Besides, look at the organization who is representing him, its not the ACLU but a right-wing christian group. That doesn’t bode well for him having a case if only an extremist group will take the case. Reeks to me of Schiavo or the backwards “B” girl.

  • Jaroslaw

    Jersey – Thanks, maybe if we see it three times we’ll get it. YES, again, we need to know what this kid actually said and how long he was talking, and exactly what the assignment was.

    and that Christian group defending him? It is the Alliance Defense Fund, a known promoter of Gay hatred, among other things.

  • Disgusted American

    would he be upset IF the Professor didn’t want to hear his exceptance of the KKK, or Neo Nazis?

  • njted

    Irregardless of what the student said; in resorting to the old-Liberal public denunciation of “Fascist”, the professor loses the argument automatically. To call a student in an open classroom a ‘fascist bastard’ should be grounds for disciplinary-action in-itself. Especially as most “liberals” have no knowledge of what Fascism is in the first place, and apply the word incorrectly. Fascism is a political-tradition of the Left and Reactionary Socialism…not of the Right and Modern Conservatism.

    Personally, if a professor called me a fascist in open class, I’d call him out to a hallway with his choice of knives or baseball bats.

  • Jaroslaw

    It is alleged the teacher called him a fascist. And while we’re at it, what an interesting topic. As if anyone one over the age of 10 doesn’t know the boilerplate right wing agenda on Christianity in the USA. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ADF put this kid up to this to “give” themselves something to do.

  • matt (the other other one)

    @njted:Irregardless is not a word. You mean regardless.

  • matt (the other other one)

    @Alco: Every christian is not homophobic I know I’m not. There is no justification for using bigoted language period and I see a lot of it on this site. We lose our moral upperhand when we are bigoted.

  • petted

    “In addition to financial damages, the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks to strike down a sexual harassment code barring students from uttering “offensive” statements. ”,0,2571899.story

    If the student in question made reference to specific students then its clear the presentation should end. While the professor clearly acted out of line – its clear that this student made no real effort to pursue redress within the school’s governing bodies, frequently courts expect people to have made a reasonable effort to obtain redress from within the system it’s been about 3 months during most of which time the school would be closed due to the holidays seems a little funny doesn’t it? Normally with professors like this it is blatantly obvious to the students whether a given topic will result in Pompei as such one must believe that either it was the student’s intent to piss off their professor, which is stupid though as this kid is getting an Associate’s degree clearly he hasn’t been getting stellar grades, or it was a ploy to bring the college to court – I know low blow about the kid’s intellect but as their going after the money and the sexual harassment policy I’m inclined to think his motives are disingenuous.

    After all the ADF wants as many angry fundamentalists lemmings as it can get in front of the courthouse when the hearings start on proposition 8 in 16 days the timing of this suit seems more then passing suspicious.

  • Jersey

    Jaroslaw, Thanks for agreeing with me but in regards to the smart ass response…fuck you.

  • Jaroslaw

    Jersey – what do you mean smart ass response? How was I being unkind to you?

  • petted

    @Jaroslaw: I’d guess that post #20 “Jersey – Thanks, maybe if we see it three times we’ll get it.” doesn’t come over very well.

  • Charles J. Mueller


    Just consider it another “drive-by, gay turf shooting” as one of our more intelligent and articulate commentators (Vernon) described such inane and off-topic “shit-stirrers”.

  • petted

    @Charles J. Mueller: True that – I just got my haircut and am in way too good of a mood :)

  • Jaroslaw

    Petted – (and Jersey) I was sincerely thanking Jersey because obviously posters keep harping on the same things and I was agreeing with him. And even if he thought it was “smart ass” Fuck You seems a bit overblown in response. But it wasn’t meant that way, and so all I can say is “oops I’m sorry.”

  • Darth Paul

    @getreal: Who made a christophobic remark? If you’re insinuating that a quip about ‘god’ = christophobic, we could well call you judaiophobic or islamophobic (amongst things).

  • petted

    @Jaroslaw: Hope I didn’t come across as being curt, I was just trying to clarify things without becoming involved which is foolhardy I know but best wishes to all and to all a good night

    I am feeling way too good after what is, after all is said and done, just a hair cut.

  • vernonvanderbilt

    Well, my knee-jerk reaction is obviously “you go, girl” as far as the professor is concerned, on an intellectual level I realize he potentially overstepped his bounds a little. That being said, there’s no way any of us can judge one way or the other until more details are provided. What class was it? What exactly did Lopez say? Is this the first time he’s been a disruption in this class? Is this the first time the professor has been at the center of controversy? We know almost nothing about the incident as far as specifics go.

    I am a fervent proponent of making your enemies look silly and/or extremist as opposed to reacting with uncontrolled anger, at least in a setting like a college classroom. I also happen to have adopted freedom of speech as one of my pet causes years ago. I can’t help but think that no matter what this student was saying or how he was saying it, there was probably a better way for the professor to handle it.

    I did dig the “ask god what your grade is” comment, though. It may not have been classy, but it did draw a smile from me.

    I’d be more than vague about my take on this, but without more details there’s no way I can know what I think about it. Obviously Lopez is a cretin, but he has the right to be under the U.S. Constitution, just as everyone who isn’t an idiot has the right to call him on his bullshit. As far as who’s more right here, I’ll wait until I know more.

  • audiored

    Since the only arguments against equality and full citizenship rights are religiously based. And since you can’t argue against that kind of stoopid. It is like allowing a holocaust denier to present a paper in a history class on WWII. There is no historical evidence to support the case and I wouldn’t begrudge a professor shutting down a student that would present such a paper.

    Until I hear the full story my benefit of the doubt goes to the professor. I imagine this student had to have been pretty damn vulgar and disgusting for the professor to shut him down.

    Free speech is very contextual. This is a class room. And part of the lesson is more than the specifics of any given topic. A big part of the lesson is how to use scientific and testable and verifiable facts in arguments. Not relying on mythology and xenophobia to make an argument pertinent to contemporary public policy.

  • Jersey

    Thanks for clearing that up Jaroslaw. I’m afraid I did read that line as snarky. My over-the-top response was in honour of the respecting free speech theme of the thread :) Sorry I misstook the way you were saying that. Please forgive me.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    I find it interesting to note that no one has indicated what the class topic was about?

    History? Social Studies? Math? Science Biology? What? Or was it a class on Christian Morality? Highly doubtful.

    In a previous post, the heading read;

    “Utahns opening their Sunday editions of The Salt Lake Tribune or the Deseret Morning News were shocked to discover a full-page ad, created by the group America Forever, imploring them to “Stand Up & Stop the Homosexual Movement”

    In that full-page ad, were gross distortions of truth and full-out flat lies as well as blatant bigotry, hatred and homophobia…the hallmarks of Amerikun Xtianity.

    Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and also maintains a website called and uses exactly the same vile tactics, not only against members of the LGBT community, but also against anyone who sympathizes with them. Printing a full list, or even a partial one, of the Christian organizations who preach similar bullshit, would take more space than this thread would allow.

    It seems to me, that the very existence of all of these organizations whose avowed purpose is to bring about the complete destruction of civil-rights for homosexuals as well as the possible eradication of homosexuals themselves, via one means or the other, is ample demonstration of our democratic right to free speech and the religious right is pushing that right to it’s fullest. One might even say to a point of being immoral, radical and even bordering on illegal.

    To my knowledge, (someone please correct me if I am in error) the LGBT community has not ever purchased a full page ad in a newspaper, or any other media that I am aware of, calling for the outlawing and dismantling of the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church, or another religious organization for that matter, and prevention of them utilizing their right to free speech. That right has been protected, almost to a fault.

    What I see here, is a double-standard, with the law is fully on the side of the shit-stirrers, rable-rousers, hate-speakers and those who would eradicate homosexuals in a heartbeat, like the Nazi Party did in WWII, if given even half the chance.

    This college student, IMHO, is nothing more than a fanatical, bible-thumper, who believes that it is his inalienable right to “do his thing” anywhere he wishes, irregardless of what else might be on the school curriculum at the time.

    I grew up in a time where we had an expression. It’s probably a little out-dated by today’s standards but I think still appropriate to the discussion at hand. Here is the expression

    “There is a time and place for everything.”

    Would his outburst against same-sex marriage have been appropriate in a medical class on conducting an autopsy, for example? Should the professor be willing to relinquish control over the class and should the class be willing to suspend the lesson before them, simply to observe the disrupting student’s right to free speech? What does it have to do with learning the proper identification and function of body parts?

    I cannot help but wonder how this outraged college student might feel about an outspoken gay man attending Sunday Mass at his Church standing up in the middle of the Mass and utilizing his free speech rights to give a “sermon” on same-sex marriage?

    Would this same college student be championing the gay man’s right to state his beliefs in this instance as well?

    Me thinks, NOT.

  • petted

    “Ms. Jones added that Mr. Lopez’s speech had offended many other students in the class. She quoted one student who said the speech was “not of the informative style that our assignment called for, but rather a preachy, persuasive speech that was completely inappropriate and deeply offensive.””

    He’s working towards a associate of arts degree as noted in the LA Times article

    John Matteson is listed as a faculty member of the Speech Department however he also appears to be the co-director of the Forensics Department – looking in the school catalog there is an Associate of Arts & Certificate Degree in AJ – Specializing in Forensics my guess would be that the professor was teaching a class in forensics that entailed some sort of presentation.

    Not sure if any of that really adds more light cause we still don’t know a lot of things for certain.

  • lori

    Just like my neighbors who voted for Prop 8 and were vocal about their support – this is the way I feel.

    I have to respect that kid’s right to have a view, but I certainly don’t need to respect the view itself nor even be civil in my reaction.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    Putting on a school play depicting homosexuals – Promoting the “Gay Agenda” and lifestyle.

    Proselytizing Christianity and the Bible in a College classroom – Freedom of Speech.

    I’m confused?

  • vernonvanderbilt

    According to the article Petted linked us to, this was a Speech 101 class and the assignment was to give an informative speech. As someone who has done some public speaking, as well as taken writing classes in college dealing with similar ideas, it is looking more and more like the student in question was guilty of two things:

    1. Not giving a presentation that was in line with the requirements for the assignment.

    2. Being a twat.

    If I were in the professor’s shoes, I’d wouldn’t have let him continue the speech either, specifically because it was not fulfilling the objectives of the assignment. It would be a waste of class time that these students pay entirely too much for to begin with. I do believe that the professor probably didn’t help matters by getting huffy about it and using the student’s viewpoint as a reason to cut him off. But still, it’s hardly grounds for a lawsuit.

    As a matter of fact, the article points out that the student decided to file his lawsuit instead of following the complaint guidelines set in place by the college. He didn’t give the administration any chance to handle the matter, instead hoping to get some unearned green out of this debacle. Kinda makes you wonder if he wasn’t planning that all along, huh?

    I am not going to come down one way or the other as far as the “fascist bastard” comment, because that’s just hear-say at this point. If the professor did use the phrase in reference to the student, then that’s unfortunate. The kid deserved to be publicly belittled, of course, but the professor shouldn’t have resorted to name-calling. If that is shown to be what actually happened, it’s not going to help at all.

  • vernonvanderbilt

    @Charles J. Mueller:

    “Putting on a school play depicting homosexuals – Promoting the “Gay Agenda” and lifestyle.

    Proselytizing Christianity and the Bible in a College classroom – Freedom of Speech.”

    Excellent point there, Charles. We should be pointing out the double standard whenever we can.

  • rick

    sounds like a set up by the religious right and their lawyers to me.

  • getreal

    @Darth Paul: no you couldn’t

  • Charles J. Mueller


    1. Not giving a presentation that was in line with the requirements for the assignment.

    2. Being a twat.

    I’m more inclined to lean toward the latter. ;-)

    And, you do raise some very interesting speculations as well.

    More often than not, lawsuits are just about the unearned green than whether justice is being served, hence the term “frivolous lawsuits”


    In light of some of the disclosures about the Catholic and Mormon Church’s money-raising and accounting “techniques”, twisting of facts and the flat-out lies and accusations they have made against the LGBT community, your suggestion would not surprise me in the least.

    Frankly, given what we already know about their sordid pasth and what we have been witness to in our own time, I would not put anything past these unscrupulous people and their greedy mouthpieces.

  • Jaroslaw

    Petted – thanks, I didn’t take it that way & should have thanked you for attempting clarification.

    Jersey – of course you are forgiven!

  • Caitlin Williams

    Well first off, Hate Speech is a crime in the United States. Secondly, to accuse a students of hate crime as some of you are without knowing all that was said, would be denying him his right to freedom of speech. . Lastly, if a student were to write a speech on how god did not exist and used that to supporte gay marriage would he be asked to leave the classroom? No, he would be listened to and respected for his view of their being no god: however, a student who decides to use god as support is kicked out of a classroom and called names. How is this right? America is a land of freedom where I or anyone else may express their opinions on WHATEVER topic they feel.

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