AUDIO: student forced to stop reading Bible before class

Anthony Gockowski
Investigative Reporter

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  • A Northern Arizona University student was recently asked to stop reading his Bible prior to the start of one of his classes.
  • A Northern Arizona University student was recently asked to stop reading his Bible prior to the start of one of his classes, according to audio obtained by Campus Reform.

    In a recording of the February incident, provided to Campus Reform by Kevin Cavanaugh for Congress, Mark Holden explains the situation to History Department Chair Derek Heng, who had been called in by the instructor, Dr. Heather Martel, after Holden had refused her request that he put his Bible away.

    “So, will you, will you, will you, put your Bible away?”   

    Holden tells Heng that he had arrived early to his U.S. history course and, as usual, used the spare time to read his Bible, but claims that Martel had objected to the routine because she didn’t want to see a Bible in front of her.

    “So Prof. Martel says that she doesn’t want you sitting in front of her because you put, you know, a Bible out, right?” Heng can be heard explaining to Holden, adding that while he doesn’t “know what the dynamics [are] going on in the classroom,” the “real key is to make sure that, you know, the class is able to go on and that you are in the classroom.”

    “So she doesn’t want me in the front because I have my Bible out?” Holden responded for clarification, to which Heng responded by inquiring as to why Holden had his Bible out in the first place.

    [RELATED: College argues that preaching the Gospel is ‘fighting words’]

    “No, I think she, I mean, well why do you have your Bible out anyway?” Heng asked, with Holden clarifying that he was “just reading before class” and that the class hadn’t “even started yet.”

    Nonetheless, and despite Holden’s protestations that class wasn’t going to begin for “another five minutes,” Heng concluded the conversation by again asking Holden if he would put his Bible away.

    “So, will you, will you, will you, put your Bible away?” he asks, to which Holden replies that he always puts his Bible away once class begins, stating that he only reads the Bible “before class” and always makes sure to stow it away “before class starts.”

    [RELATED: Clemson evicts man for praying outside free-speech zone]

    Prior to the Bible altercation, Holden had been accused by Martel of violating the school’s policy on disruptive classroom behavior for an encounter in which Holden challenged Martel’s views on cultural assimilation.

    Holden told Campus Reform that he had cited news reports about two Muslim immigrants who erected a sign declaring that the Koran gives them the right to commit rape, saying he used it as an example of a case in which cultural assimilation might be desirable.

    According to an email that Martel sent to Holden explaining the violation, Holden had allegedly interrupted the class multiple times and “made a scene,” only stopping after a classmate intervened.

    “Then you raised your hand for most of the rest of class. When I acknowledged that I saw your hand but stated we would be hearing from your classmates instead as you had already had your input, you said in a loud voice: ‘You work for me. I pay your salary,’” Martel alleged in the email, though neither she nor Heng responded to Campus Reform’s requests for elaboration on the matter.

    Martel then sent out a second email about the altercation, not just to Holden but to the entire class, outlining “steps to re-instate [sic] civility in the classroom” and declaring emphatically that “hate speech” would not be tolerated.

    [RELATED: Criticizing Sharia is ‘hate speech,’ Georgetown students say]

    “It’s a systemic problem, not just at this university, but across the United States in the restriction of free speech,” Holden told Campus Reform, revealing that he eventually withdrew from Martel’s class.

    As Holden sees it, most college professors are “pushing an ideology on students and any opposition to this is refuted and slashed.” While there may exist students “who want to speak up,” they don’t “feel that they can because of fear about their grades,” he elaborated, noting that conservative-leaning professors face similar concerns in relation to keeping their jobs.

    Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox weighed in on the matter, telling Campus Reform that "public universities are supposed to serve as a marketplace of ideas, and Christian students are not second class citizens on their tax-funded campuses." 

    "By singling out a student's religious views for discriminatory treatment a professor not only violates the First Amendment, but also disserves the very purpose of a university," he added. 

    Campus Reform contacted both Martel and Heng, offering them the opportunity to address Holden’s characterization of the events and offer their own perspectives, but neither responded in time for publication.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski



    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He has previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, and The Catholic Spirit.

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