NORTHRIDGE, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – Robert Oscar Lopez, associate professor of English at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), has been an object of controversy for clearly and consistently stating his belief in traditional marriage.
Lopez, who was raised by a Puerto-Rican lesbian mother and her female partner, who are still involved in his life, believes marriage is defined by one man and one woman. Anything else harms children, says Lopez, who is the president of the International Children's Rights Institute.
This past year, Lopez has been under investigation by the Office of Equity and Diversity at CSUN because of complaints alleged against him by students.
Initially, two students complained about an optional assignment in Lopez's class in which they were "to prepare a research exhibit and display it at an all-day conference at the Reagan Library," Lopez explained to the Daily Signal in an email. "[I]t was the Reagan Library option they found 'harmful' because they were exposed to and had to sit next to conservatives while they ate and listened to lectures."
While the university deemed these claims groundless, it continued to investigate a separate charge against Lopez, in which a student accused him of retaliation. Lopez says the student made an "A" in his class, and "all the 'evidence' supporting the complainant's retaliation claim was undocumented memory," he said.
A POLITICAL AND IDEOLOGICAL ATTACK
Lopez, recently the co-editor of an essay collection called Jephthah's Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Family 'Equality' about views on the consequences of redefining marriage, first came to national attention when he was targeted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for his defense of marriage in 2014.
The campaign against him made him feel "completely isolated," he told the Daily Signal then, as well as "having to worry every time I leave my home—and my wife is there with the newborn—and not knowing whether I'm going to get killed, it's really hard."
Mirah Riben of the Huffington Post wrote an opinion article called "End the Witch Hunt" to the effect that Lopez should not be persecuted for explaining his perspective and for defending children's rights. Lopez maintains children have a right to a mother and a father.
Riben says she disagrees with Lopez but does not disapprove of him: "I do not disapprove of Lopez' beliefs and conclusions. I disagree and despite our differences, I write in support of this Associate Professor of English Literature's fight to maintain his position at the University of California, Northridge because I support his right to his speak his truth as an American and as a child of a non-traditional household, and because I admire and support his dedication to child rights."
Quoting the Change.org petition to defend academic freedom and Lopez, Riben joins over 2,000 people in asserting a university "should aim to positively encourage diversity of opinion and should never be dictated to by a self-interested lobby group who are not part of academia and who are opposed to moral and intellectual freedom."
Discrimination, of which Lopez was accused, is one of the few charges that can cause a tenured professor to be terminated.
YEARNING FOR A MOTHER AND FATHER
In a letter to CSU Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Yi Li, Charles S. LiMandri, president and chief counsel of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund representing Lopez, pled for the October guilty verdict of retaliation against a student found against Lopez to be reversed.
"Under these circumstances," LiMandri wrote, "we have no choice 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 [at CSUN]"
Holding "unpopular" conservative Christian views at a university should not require disciplinary action, LiMandri suggests.
Among the writing that has drawn hostile attention to Lopez was the brief as amicus curiae he filed with the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges in May, in which he said research into the rights of children of same-sex parents was deficient.
"On what basis can a society define happiness, a 'well-adjusted' child, or 'faring well'?" Lopez asked. "Nowhere in such metrics does one find the most basic yearning, reported over and over again in testimonials from COGs [children of gay parents], for a mother and father, for one's origins, and for one's freedom from false identities imposed by politics."
Regarding the recent and, according to some conservative outlets, belated attention Lopez's situation has been attracting, the professor said he hopes "the conservative movement can find a way to fight for people like me."