Mormon student at Florida Atlantic University punished for refusing to 'stomp on Jesus'

Published: Tuesday, March 26 2013 4:55 p.m. MDT

Florida Atlantic University student Ryan Rotel sits for an interview with CBS News in Davie, Fla., on March 21, 2013.

CBS News

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DAVIE, Fla. — Suppose you’re in college, attending a class called intercultural communications and your teacher asks you to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper in large capital letters. It seems benign enough — you have no problem doing so. Then he instructs you to put the paper on the floor with the name facing up. You comply.

He asks you to think about the paper for a moment and then tells you to stomp on it. What would you do?

That’s the situation Florida Atlantic University student Ryan Rotela found himself in nearly a month ago, according to news website Raw Story.

Rotela, a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, refused to complete the exercise and was suspended by the university after reporting the incident to the instructor’s supervisor, CBS News reported on March 21.

“I picked up the paper from the floor and put it right back on the table. I’m not going to be sitting in a class having my religious rights desecrated.

“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."

Rotela said he expressed his feelings to instructor Dr. Deandre Poole who showed no remorse.

"I said to the professor, 'With all due respect to your authority as a professor, I do not believe what you told us to do was appropriate. I believe it was unprofessional and I was deeply offended by what you told me to do.'"

Rotela then reported the incident to the associate dean, who told him not to go back to class. “I’m being punished,” Rotela said. “And like I said, I’m still waiting for an apology from somebody.”

The university initially issued a statement saying:

"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."

One day after the CBS News report, however, the university reversed course, offering the following apology, as reported by FoxNews:

“This exercise will not be used again. The University holds dear its core values. We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”

Email: dward@deseretnews.com.

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