A Fresno City College instructor accused of presenting religious-based and anti-gay views as fact in a health class vehemently denied the charges Thursday.
Instructor Bradley Lopez denied saying that homosexuals "degrade society," as one student has alleged. He also said that everything he teaches "is within the scope of health science."
Lopez's comments came at a news conference after he and his attorney, Charles Magill, met with college officials who are investigating a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two students.
Magill was hired by the Pacific Justice Institute, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that specializes in defending religious freedom and civil liberties, to represent Lopez.
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ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill charged in her Feb. 8 complaint 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 evidence that life begins at conception to support his assertion that abortion is murder, she said.
The ACLU said that because the class is taught at a publicly funded college, such statements violate constitutional protections that guarantee the separation of church and state. The ACLU has said it does not believe the case involves academic freedom -- a principle that instructors should be able to teach controversial ideas without fear of punishment.
Lopez didn't deny that he asked students to use the Bible as classroom reference material because it provides "historical evidence." He said the assignment was optional and was meant to "stimulate critical thinking."
The case is about academic freedom as well as freedom of speech, Magill said.
Not true, said Gill: "Academic freedom has never meant that you can say two-plus-two equals five or that you can violate clear constitutional limitations."
Lopez said this is the first time he has faced formal complaints in his 18 years of teaching. No students ever told Lopez they were uncomfortable or offended by his teaching, Magill said.
Fresno City College spokeswoman Kathy Bonilla said the school would not discuss Lopez or the investigation.
However, in a written response issued Tuesday to the ACLU, general counsel Gregory Taylor said Fresno City College "takes all reports of harassment and discrimination seriously."
Late Thursday, the ACLU said a third student had also come forward. A copy of the student's letter said Lopez joked about "faggots" in class and told students: "Personally, I think homosexuality is a sin."