Ryan Rotela, a junior attending Florida Atlantic University at Davie, Fla., was reportedly suspended from his intercultural communications class for refusing to stomp on a piece of paper with the name "Jesus" written on it at the request of his instructor, Dr. Deandre Poole, WPEC reported Thursday.
Rotela told the CBS affiliate that he refused to participate in an exercise he called an insult to his intelligence.
Some of his classmates followed the instructor's directions, but he did not, saying that he was offended by the request.
"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 said. “I’m not going to be sitting in a class having my religious rights desecrated.”
Ryan told CBS that he is a very religious Mormon who attends church every Sunday.
Two days after the incident, he went to see Dr. Poole's supervisor and learned that he was suspended from the class.
The school defended the action, saying the exercise came from the textbook, “Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.”
"Faculty and students at academic institutions pursue knowledge and engage in open discourse. While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate," the school told WPRC in an email.
“As with any academic lesson, the exercise was meant to encourage students to view issues from many perspectives, in direct relation with the course objectives,” said Noemi Marin, director of the school of communication and multimedia studies. “While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.”
According to Todd Starnes, Fox News obtained a synopsis of the lesson.
“Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper,” the lesson says. “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.”
A reader at WPEC wondered if the instructor would do the same with the names of other religious figures, like Mohammed or Buddha, but Starnes said the college did not explain why other religious names were not included in the exercise.
Update: The professor involved has been identified as an official with the local Democratic Party. More here.
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