ADF asks 9th Circuit to rehear ‘Ask God what your grade is’ ruling

Full court asked to reinstate injunction against problematic Los Angeles Community College speech code
Friday, October 01, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund are asking a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to rehear a ruling issued last month by a three-judge panel that threw out an injunction against a problematic Los Angeles Community College District speech code challenged by a student. The lawsuit was spurred when a professor called student Jonathan Lopez a “fascist bastard,” accused him of offending others, and wrote “Ask God what your grade is” on Lopez’s speech evaluation after he spoke about his faith during a classroom speech. The panel found that Lopez did not have legal standing to challenge the speech code even though it allows for the punishment of “offensive” speech.

Although the 9th Circuit panel voiced concerns over the speech code, which a federal district court found was too broad in its prohibition against creating an “offensive” environment, the decision to lift the injunction allows LACCD to continue to enforce it. ADF attorneys argue that the speech code unconstitutionally restricts student speech on campus and the panel’s decision directly conflicts with key 3rd and 6th Circuit decisions.

“A public college shouldn’t seek to maintain and enforce a policy that penalizes Christian students for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel David J. Hacker, who argued before the 9th Circuit in March. “We trust that the full 9th Circuit will overturn the panel’s ruling and recognize that it doesn’t make sense to say that a student whose free speech was censored has no legal standing to challenge the campus policy that led to that censorship.”

In July 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued an order that halted enforcement of the LACCD’s speech code--part of the district’s “sexual harassment policy”--while the lawsuit proceeded. LACCD filed a motion to reconsider the ruling, which was denied in September 2009, with the court noting that “the Policy undeniably targets the content of expression” and is “unconstitutionally overbroad by sweeping within its reach a substantial amount of protected speech.”

Sam Kim and Michael Parker, two of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance, are serving as local counsel in the case, Lopez v. Candaele.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.