BOCA RATON - State education officials will be taking a closer look at Florida Atlantic University today after Gov. Rick Scott responded to a controversial classroom exercise.
A class, taught by Vice Chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party Deandre Poole, was reportedly following an exercise in the instructor's manual that had students write the name "Jesus" in large letters on a piece of paper, put the paper on the floor, face up, and after a brief period, tell them to step on the paper.
The exercise was part of a chapter dealing with the power of certain words. One student, a junior named Ryan Rotelas, said he refused to participate.
While the university said Rotelas was never punished for his refusal, the student's lawyer said school officials told Rotelas he would be suspended.
FAU officials have apologized and said the student will not be punished. They also stated the exercise will not be assigned again.
Gov. Rick Scott wants a detailed report from state university system Chancellor Frank Brogan regarding the incident.
"Whether the student was reprimanded or whether an apology was given is in many ways (inconsequential) to the larger issue of a professor's poor judgment," Scott stated in a letter to Brogan. "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."
Meanwhile, the controversy has prompted the Church of All Nations in Boca Raton to plan a march in response, according to Reverend Mark Boykin.
"To write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper, and then to stop and contemplate what they were doing. And then to stop on it," says Rev. Boykin. "We find this to be unconscionable, unprofessional and completely unacceptable."
This comes despite repeated apologies from FAU leaders.
"We don't plan to use this exercise again, we apologize to everyone who felt it was too sensitive we recognize that," says Dr. Charles Brown, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs at FAU.
Dr. Brown says Rotelas was never up for punishment for refusing to step on a piece of paper with Jesus' names on it. A lawyer for Rotelas says otherwise.
"He met with the school officials about it and was informed of his suspension," says Hiram Sasser, with the Liberty Institute.
That's when Sasser says FAU did an about face.
"Their first mistake was backing the professor and the assignment. But then they found out most of America didn't agree with them," says Sasser.
Rotelas is back in class, but with a different instructor. He claimed "victory" Tuesday on his Facebook page once the university decided he wouldn't be punished.
Marissa Bagg WPTV contributed to this report
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