Thursday, July 16, 2009

Federal Judge Bars College's 'Anti-homophobe Policy'

A California court has ruled in favor of a student who was insulted for defending traditional marriage and has ordered the college to strike from its website a sexual harassment policy that censors speech deemed "offensive" to homosexual people.

-- From "L.A. Community College District's sexual harassment policy put on hold" by Gale Holland, Los Angeles Time 7/15/09

Saying it violates students' free speech rights, a federal judge has barred the Los Angeles Community College District from enforcing a sexual harassment policy that bans "offensive" remarks in and out of the classroom.

U.S. District Judge George H. King granted a preliminary injunction against pressing the policy at the request of Jonathan Lopez, an L.A. City College student who in February filed a suit accusing a professor of censoring his classroom speech about his religious beliefs, including opposition to gay marriage.

Lopez delivered the speech in the emotional aftermath of the passage of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.

The student said that the professor cut his presentation short, called him a "fascist bastard" and told him to "ask God" for his grade.

The district disciplined the professor, John Matteson, and Lopez received an A in the course. His suit sought financial damages and a ban on enforcing the sexual harassment code.

King said the policy's use of "subjective" terms such as "hostile" and "offensive" discouraged students from exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

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From "Homosexclamation! Christian student fights prof, wins big" by Drew Zahn © 2009 WorldNetDaily 7/14/09

Represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, Lopez sued the Los Angeles City College District, the largest community college system in the U.S., with over 135,000 students.

The lawsuit not only targeted the school over the professor's comments, however, but also sought removal of a campus sexual harassment and speech policy that court documents allege "systematically prohibits and punishes political and religious speech by students that is outside the campus political mainstream."

ADF claims the district's policy, which labels speech as sexual harassment whenever it might be "perceived as offensive or unwelcome" – such as Lopez's opinions on sexual morality – opens the door for Christians and defenders of traditional marriage to suffer abuses similar to the type Lopez endured.

Even though college administrators informed ADF that a "progressive discipline" procedure had been started in the case, ADF filed for a preliminary injunction that would require the school to remove the sexual harassment policy from its website.

According to court documents, the district's website sexual harassment policy stated, "If [you are] unsure if certain comments or behavior are offensive do not do it, do not say it. ... Ask if something you do or say is being perceived as offensive or unwelcome."

Judge King, however, ruled, "By using subjective words such as 'hostile' and 'offensive,' the policy is so subjective and broad that it applies to protected speech."

He further quoted court precedent, stating, "'It is firmly settled that under our Constitution the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.'"

"Thus," the ruling concluded, "the policy reaches constitutionally protected speech that is merely offensive to some listeners, such as discussions of religion, homosexual relations and marriage, sexual morality and freedom, polygamy, or even gender politics and policies. Indeed, the LACC's website indicates that sexual harassment can include 'sexist statements ... or degrading attitudes/comments about women or men.' This could include an individual's outdated, though protected, opinions on the proper role of the genders. While it may be desirable to promote harmony and civility, these values cannot be enforced at the expense of protected speech under the First Amendment. Thus, the policy is unconstitutionally overbroad."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.