Florida’s governor is jumping into the national controversy over a college professor who forced students to stomp on the name of Jesus, and he’s now calling for an official investigation into the matter.
Republican Rick Scott has written a letter to Frank Brogan, chancellor of the state’s university system, saying, “I am deeply disappointed in the recent action of Florida Atlantic University faculty that raises significant questions over students rights and the lessons being taught in our classrooms.”
“As we enter the week memorializing the events of Christ’s passion, this incident gave me great concern over the lessons we are teaching our students,” Scott continued. “The professor’s lesson was offensive, and even intolerant, to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom.”
As WND previously reported, the professor who gave the assignment, Deandre Poole, turns out also to be the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.
Poole ignited outrage across the U.S. for requiring students to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper, then put it on the floor and stomp on it.
But Ryan Rotela, a junior from Coral Springs, Fla., said while some of his classmates complied with the assignment, he refused.
“Anytime you stomp on something it shows that you believe that something has no value. So if you were to stomp on the word Jesus, it says that the word has no value,” he told the local CBS TV affiliate WPEC.
A religious Mormon who attends church every Sunday, Rotela complained to school officials but said they responded by suspending him from the class.
Kim Wilmath, a spokeswoman for the state university system, indicated officials would work closely with FAU in preparing a response for the governor.
“The state university system prides itself not only on its commitment to academic freedom, but at the same time, its awesome responsibility to the people it serves,” she said. “We are gratified to know that FAU has apologized for any offense the exercise has caused and has pledged never to use this exercise again. Clearly, there were things the university could have done differently by its own acknowledgement.”
On Tuesday, FAU’s senior vice president of student affairs, Charles Brown, released a video statement, in which he said, “On behalf of all us here at FAU, we are deeply sorry for any hurt this incident might have caused our students, people in the community and beyond.”
"As an institution of higher education, we embrace academic freedom. but with that comes a level of responsibility which we did not uphold."
He also claimed the lesson would no longer be used at the university, noting, "It was insensitive and deeply hurtful and we are deeply sorry."
The letter from Gov. Scott said, "Whether the student was reprimanded or whether an apology was given is in many ways inconsequential to the larger issue of a professor's poor judgment."
"Our public higher educational institutions are designed to shape the minds of Florida's future leaders," Scott wrote. "We should provide educational leadership that is respectful of religious freedom of all people."
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the incident and resulting uproar could be a political gift for Scott, who has suffered from sagging poll numbers.
"This is the sort of thing that a politician can take advantage of – in the positive sense of the word," Charles Zelden, a professor of history and legal studies at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla., told the paper. "It energizes his base, something that this governor really needs. The problem that Scott has isn't that the Democrats really, really hate him. It's that his base isn't that happy with him right now."
According to FAU, Poole had been conducting an exercise from the textbook "Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition."
A synopsis of the lesson plan in question, obtained by Fox News, goes like this:
"Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can't step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture."
Grove City College professor Paul Kengor, author of "The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor," told Fox he wasn't surprised by the "lesson."
"These are the new secular disciples of 'diversity' and 'tolerance' – empty buzzwords that make liberals and progressives feel good while they often refuse to tolerate and sometimes even assault traditional Christian and conservative beliefs," Kengor told Fox, saying classes like the one at FAU reflect "the rising confidence and aggression of the new secularists and atheists, especially at our sick and surreal modern universities."
Kengor added: "Gee, I wonder if the instructor would dare do this with the name of Muhammed."