The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Misunderstanding over FAU “Jesus stomping” assignment morphs into political gotcha

Freedom of religion ensures Christians can worship freely in both public and private forums. And it also protects a Mormon refusing to stomp on the word “Jesus” during a class exercise.

The latter took place during an intercultural communications class at Florida Atlantic University’s Davie campus earlier this month.

Ryan Rotela, a junior and devout Mormon, was suspended from class by administrators for refusing to participate in the stomping assignment, which was supposed to signify how important cultural symbols are.

Really, FAU? Talk about overreaction.

The incident understandably upset Christians, as it would upset people of other faiths if it involved the symbols they hold dear. The student’s refusal to stomp on a religious symbol dear to him is clearly protected speech.

At the same time the university released a statement saying that “this exercise will not be used again.” It’s unfortunate that it came to that. The exercise, as reported in the Palm Beach Post, was created by a communications professor at St. Norbert College, a Catholic school in Wisconsin. The FAU instructor, Deandre Poole, is very involved in a Pentecostal church in Fort Lauderdale.

Obviously this was a classroom misunderstanding that morphed into a political “gotcha.”

Gov. Rick Scott, in a letter to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan on Tuesday called for an investigation.

Talk about overreaction No. 2.

In order for students to gain insight during their learning careers, teachers and professors should have the freedom to use creative exercises to get their point across.

Higher education must be more than a sensitive bubble. It should be a place where professors have the freedom to use creative exercises to get their lessons across — a place where students can challenge their societal perspectives just as much as their own professor’s assertions.

More common sense would go a long way.

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