A student at Florida Atlantic University was suspended from class this month for declining to write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper and step on it.
The Florida Atlantic University junior’s act of reverence resulted in suspension from his college class and a barrage of attention he neither sought nor anticipated.
“The story illustrates the degree to which traditional Christian beliefs are held in contempt in the secular academy [of higher education],” said Patrick McNamara, director of communications for the New York-based Catholic League.
Rotella was in a March 4 lecture in his intercultural communication class when instructor Deandre Poole told students to each write “Jesus” on paper and then step on it. Rotella set his paper on a surface and told Poole he was offended by the request.
“Anytime you stomp on something, it shows that you believe that something has no value,” Rotella explained to Boca Raton’s CBS affiliate. “So, if you were to stomp on the word ‘Jesus,’ it says that the word has no value.”
The New York-based Center on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was among an array of religion-affiliated organizations that defended Rotella, a devout Mormon.
“We love and revere Jesus,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR. “No Muslim would step on Jesus. If the professor demands it, the proper response for a Muslim is: ‘No, and I’m about to call my lawyer.’”
CAIR’s communication manager, Amina Rubin, said Rotella’s ordeal was a “shocking example of harassment and discrimination.”
“A lot of people tell Muslims that we should be more like Christians and just take it when someone does something irreverent to that which we hold sacred,” Rubin said. “Yet part of being reverent involves standing up, as this student did, when someone tries to denigrate that which is sacred.”
“If we replace ‘Jesus’ with ‘Gandhi’ or ‘Muhammad,’ the liberals in academe should see this sort of thing as harassment and discrimination,” said Rotella’s lawyer, Hiram Sasser–of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, which defends religious liberty.