You Fascist Bastard – What can you say in the classroom?

I read this piece of news from the Volokh Conspiracy via Althouse

Professor in Speech Class Refuses to Grade Student’s Presentation,

apparently because of the religious nature of the student’s presentation, the student’s expression of opposition for same-sex marriage in the presentation, or both. On top of that, he apparently called the student a “fascist bastard” in front of the class for having supported the anti-same-sex-marriage Prop. 8, and refused to allow the student to finish the presentation. Lovely.

The student, helped by the Alliance Defense Fund, is suing (Lopez v. Candaele). The Complaint I linked to includes supporting documents. In particular, the evaluation sheet on p. 31 reflects that the teacher indeed didn’t give a grade, but instead said “Ask God what your grade is.” It seems to me pretty clear that refusal to give a grade because the teacher disapproves of the religiosity of the student’s presentation, or of the student’s opposition to same-sex marriage, is indeed a First Amendment violation.

Without knowing what the student’s speech actually said it’s hard to make a judgement. If the student’s paper was hateful, which is still hard to define anyway, then perhaps it needed to be stopped. That wouldn’t excuse that tactless way in which the professor dealt with the situation.

If the teacher found the opinion presented in the paper offensive that is another story entirely. School is a place where students should feel comfortable to debate issues of the day. If one of our opinions is restricted then all of them can be.

Let’s also not forget that this happened at the college level. I question the level of maturity of the students and teacher in this class. What kind of sheltered lives do these people live? The world is an offensive place. That doesn’t mean we can’t have intelligent debate on heated topics. In fact that should be encouraged in college. How boring would that be if everyone agreed? I wouldn’t want to be in that classroom.

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