Free to Believe

Robert Oscar Lopez

California State University: Northridge, California

Last year, California State University at Northridge English Professor Robert Oscar Lopez was put under investigation by the school administration. His crime? Inviting students to an optional conference on family matters. The dispute started after a student complained, alleging that she was “coerced” to attend the event and “traumatized” by a discussion of LGBT issues. In reality, Lopez’s syllabus clearly stated that attending the conference was optional. In addition, “LGBT issues” were not formally part of the conference, and were only discussed after a student brought up the subject of gay families during the question and answer period. What was actually behind the conflict, Lopez thinks, has nothing to do with his class—and everything to do with his personal story.

This summer, Lopez became a key figure in the same-sex marriage debate when he shared his personal story of the devastating effects of growing up in a lesbian home in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. Since then, Lopez believes, liberal activists have had their knives out for him. Whether that spurred this complaint or not, no one knows. Regardless, the California State University at Northridge launched an investigation, with Lopez’s tenure on the line.

In a controversy that’s dragged on for more than a year, school officials recently changed the charges from “discrimination” to “creating a hostile learning environment.” Despite the fact that the young woman received an “A” in Lopez’s class, and despite the fact that the professor has provided plenty of documents disputing her claims, the issue still isn’t settled. “Under these circumstances, we have no choice,” said his counsel at the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, “but to conclude that the disposition of this investigation is a purely political and ideological attack on Dr. Lopez for holding—and exposing his students to -- ideas about children’s rights which are apparently unpopular.”

As far as Lopez is concerned, his case is just a symptom of a bigger problem. “The modern American university has become a taxpayer-subsidized left-wing gulag,” he wrote in an op-ed. “In it, dissenters such as myself can be subjected to Stalinist show trials, spied on, and threatened with loss of livelihood for espousing dangerous ideas or associating with political pariahs.” Make no mistake, he went on. “The diversity fascists are coming to get you. They’ve criminalized dissent by formulating rules that are inherently stacked against Christians and conservatives (and especially Christian conservatives). Then, to add insult to injury, they ignore all their own rules and simply govern by whim.”

For now, the married father of two is hoping America sees the double standard on tolerance and has the courage to do something about it.

UPDATE: In June 2016, Dr. Lopez announced that he was resigning his tenured position at California State University at Northridge. "I found myself in a place where I had to abandon Christ or abandon CSUN," he said. He cited seven seperate incidents of false accusations against him that were perpetrated by students and staff at the university, as well as other more vague incidents based on hearsay that were impossible to disprove. He found that the energy it took to disprove the numerous accusations was affecting his ability to teach and live a normal life. He will continue to write and look for future opportunities.

Photo credit: Courtesy of TLN