Phi Beta Cons

The L.A. Times Gives a Free-Speech Lesson

Writing in response to Jonathan Lopez’s recently filed case (addressed here and here) against L.A. City College, the L.A. Times has penned an excellent editorial advocating free speech on campus. Particularly encouraging is the paper’s argument that religious speech is, well, speech — not some second-class form of expression deserving less protection than purely secular arguments:

Lopez was informing his audience about his views; that they were rooted in religion is irrelevant.

So is the fact that two students were offended by Lopez’s speech, calling it “hateful propaganda” and “preaching hate.” As long as he was opposing same-sex marriage on religious grounds — and not harassing individual students — he was making an argument that figured prominently in the public debate about Proposition 8. It’s not an argument this page finds persuasive, but we wouldn’t try to suppress it. Neither should a college preparing students to live in a contentious democracy.

On Lopez’s evaluation form, Matteson wrote that proselytizing “is inappropriate in public school.” If he’s referring to himself and other teachers, he’s correct. If he’s referring to college students expressing their views in an open forum, he deserves a failing grade in Free Speech 101.

Very well said. I doubt I would agree with many of the L.A. Times’s positions on the issues, but I’m pleased to see that the paper at least wants to have the argument . . . and may the best ideas win.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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