Florida university mired in controversy over ‘Jesus Stomping’ incident

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, March 27, 2013

Some Florida Atlantic University students were forced to take part in an unorthodox lesson earlier this month during a communications class that involved stomping on pieces of paper with the word “Jesus” written on them.

One student in the class, FAU junior Ryan Rotela, was suspended for refusing to take part in the exercise, saying that the lesson was offensive and that his instructor – who ironically happens to also be the vice chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party – went too far with it.

“I felt like my intelligence was insulted,” Rotela told local CBS affiliate WPEC. “Any time 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.”

“I’m not going to be sitting in a class having my religious rights desecrated,” Rotela added.

“Florida Atlantic University is deeply sorry for any hurt that this incident may have caused the community and beyond,” Lisa Metcalf, the school’s director of media relations, wrote in an email to NBC affiliate WPTV. “As an institution of higher learning, we embrace open discourse in our classrooms, but with that comes a level of responsibility. The exercise was insensitive and hurtful; it will not be used again.”

The controversy surrounding the “Jesus Stomping” incident has grown so large in the Sunshine State that even the state’s highest elected official, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), has waded into the debate.

In a letter to FAU chancellor Frank Brogran on Tuesday, Scott wrote, ”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. 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.

Scott also applauded Rotela for his stance and asked the university for a report on the incident that included a statement of the university’s policies to “ensure that this type of ‘lesson’ will not occur again.”

“I just spoke to Ryan Rotela and applauded him for having the courage to stand up for his faith. I told him that it took great conviction and bravery to stand up and say what he was asked to do was wrong, and went against what he believed in,” Scott said in a statement.

Many in the local community are outraged by the lesson as well, with a local church even planning a march to protest the “Jesus Stomping” lesson.

Reverend Mark Boykin of the Church of All Nations in Boca Raton, told NBC affiliate WPTV that ”To write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper, and then to stop and contemplate what they were doing. And then to stomp on it. We find this to be unconscionable, unprofessional and completely unacceptable.”

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