Ask God what Your Grade is

After a presentation in Speech 101, in which Los Angelese City College student Jonathan Lopez read the dictionary definition of marriage and then two verses from the Bible, Lopez found an evaluation form left in his backpack by Professor John Matteson that said, “Ask God what your grade is.” This pulled a hardy laugh out of me. 

Lopez’s feelings were hurt. But why not ask God? If Lopez believes Yahweh is the final authority on gay marriage, then why not believe Yahweh is the final authority on his grade? After all, the rest of Lopez’s speech was all about the miracles Yahweh performed in his life (apparently one of which was not allowing him to escape Speech 101 without criticism for his bigotry).

Conservatives are claiming that Matteson violated Lopez’s free speech rights. But it’s more like conservatives, believing Lopez has a right to use a classroom assignment to spread hatred, and that rules of logic and evidence aren’t relevant in a college classroom, are the problem. Sure, you can cite the Bible if you wish. But you must also be aware that there may be a reasonable person in the audience. 

One student in the class said, “I do not believe that our classroom is the proper platform for him to spout his hateful propaganda.” Another student said, “I don’t know what kind of actions can be taken in this situation, but I expect that this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom.”

These complaints are worth entertaining. Suppose Lopez had stood before the class and read the dictionary definition of race and then verses from the Bible to advocate for racial segregation or genocide. It’s easy to find scriptural support for such hateful beliefs and actions. Is it not the same thing as denying homosexuals equal protection before the law? Or is it because hating homosexuals is not perceived as quite as terrible as racism and genocide?

Matteson also has free speech rights. He used them to criticize Lopez’s presentation. 

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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