2/09/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsA Fresno City College instructor is wrongly presenting religious-based and anti-gay views as fact in an introductory health class, the American Civil Liberties Union charged Monday.
Image via WikipediaThe organization outlined complaints against full-time instructor Bradley Lopez in a letter sent to City College President Cynthia Azari. The ACLU -- which requested a response by Feb. 15 -- demanded the campus ensure that health-science classes teach unbiased and medically accurate information.
Azari said officials are investigating student complaints filed in December. The campus has 90 days to investigate; she said Lopez continues to teach.
"The college takes its nondiscrimination and prohibition-of-harassment policy seriously, investigates alleged violations and takes appropriate action to enforce compliance," Azari said. She declined to elaborate, citing confidentiality rules.
Monday, Lopez said he hadn't had time to review the ACLU's letter and could not comment.
One student who complained about Lopez was Jacqueline Mahaffey, 24, of Fresno. She said Lopez assigned Bible study as homework, said that homosexuals were "degrading society" and contradicted the textbook by insisting that abortion -- not cancer -- was the leading cause of death. "He was teaching things that were definitely not in the curriculum," said Mahaffey, who took the introductory health class last semester. She said she stayed in the class -- even earning an "A" -- but registered her concerns with college officials.
Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, said Lopez is teaching his personal views as science -- neglecting the established facts that he should present to students. "Instead of teaching about abortion as an option for women and about the actual health implications, he's teaching that abortion is murder based on the Bible."
Gill charged in her letter that Lopez has presented homosexuality as a "biological misapplication of human sexuality" that can be treated with counseling or hormone supplements. He also used Bible passages as empirical evidence that life begins at conception to support his assertion that abortion is murder, she said.
In a section on environmental health, Gill alleged, Lopez offered a biblical quote about the world ending in flames as "the real global warming we should be worried about."
Because the class is taught at a publicly funded college, such lectures violate federal and state constitutional protections that guarantee the separation of church and state, she said.
Gill said the controversy doesn't involve academic freedom because Lopez isn't simply expressing an opinion -- he's teaching it as fact or science.
Lopez doesn't have a free-speech right to teach a secular class from a sectarian perspective, she said. But City College has "an obligation to protect its students from religious indoctrination and anti-gay bias presented as 'science' or 'fact,' " she said.
Gill said two students filed grievances against Lopez last fall. He submitted responses that note he disagrees with the concept of the separation of church and state and says he provides students only with "measured, scientific information in current issues in health," according to Gill's letter to Azari.
Lopez's use of religious references in class had been cited previously by students who post anonymously to the Web site ratemyprofessor.com.
The respondents gave him mixed reviews, with some describing him as funny and helpful and others complaining that he was narrow-minded and improperly introduced religious beliefs into the class.
Lopez has a doctorate in education through the joint doctorate program offered by California State University, Fresno, and University of California at Davis, college officials said.
The American Civil Liberties Union is charging that a health instructor at Fresno City College is presenting religious-based and anti-gay views as science and fact.
In a letter sent today to college administrators, the ACLU alleges that instructor Bradley Lopez, who teaches an introductory health class, is teaching sectarian views and personal bias as fact. The organization said it was reacting to complaints by students and gave the college until Feb. 15 to explain how it will address the problem.
City College President Cynthia Azari said officials are conducting an investigation into allegations by students filed in December. The college has 90 days to investigate; she said Lopez continues to teach.
"The college takes its nondiscrimination and prohibition of harassment policy seriously, investigates alleged violations and takes appropriate action to enforce compliance," Azari said. "Beyond that, we don't make comments on personnel matters for confidentiality reasons."
The ACLU letter is available at fblinks.com/aclu
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