Devout Mormon suspended from college class for refusing to ‘stomp on Jesus’

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UPDATE: MARCH 26, 8:25 a.m

Florida Atlantic University has apologized and says Ryan Rotela will not be punished.

Deandre Poole
Deandre Poole

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon attending Florida Atlantic University at Davie, Fla., was suspended from his intercultural communications class for refusing to stomp on a piece of paper with the name “Jesus” written on it, CBS affiliate WPEC reported Thursday.

According to WPEC, the class was conducting an exercise that was spelled out in the textbook, “Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.”

Fox News' Todd Starnes obtained a synopsis of the lesson.

“Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper,” the lesson instructed. “Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

While some in the class completed the exercise, Rotela did not, citing his religious convictions.  He wrote “Jesus” on a piece of paper and placed it on the floor, but that was as far as he would go.

“He had us all stand up and he said ‘stomp on it,’” he said. “I picked up the paper from the floor and put it right back on the table.”

According to Starnes, Rotela told his instructor, Deandre Poole, that the exercise was insulting and offensive.

“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,’” he told WPEC.  “‘I believe it was unprofessional and I was deeply offended by what you told me to do.’”

“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,” he added.

Two days later, Rotela spoke to Poole's supervisor and learned that he was suspended from the class.

The school defended the action against Rotela.

“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,” the college told WPEC in an email.

“As with any academic lesson, the exercise was meant to encourage students to view issues from many perspectives, in direct relation with the course objectives,” Noemi Marin, director of the school of communication and multimedia studies, said. “While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.”

Making matters worse, the instructor involved was identified as the vice chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, a tidbit not mentioned by the local media in the original report.

In his report at BizPac Review, Tom Tillison said that Poole's actions “add fire to an already-disturbing pattern of hate coming out of the local party.”

Reaction to the incident was swift and furious, with some alumni expressing anger with their alma mater.

“Perhaps I'll burn my FAU diploma and mail the ashes to them, symbolizing what they are worth these days,” one reader said.

Others wondered what would have happened if the instructor used another religious figure, like Buddha or Mohammed.  Starnes said the college did not explain why other names were not included in the exercise.

According to WPEC, FAU did not say if the instructor would face any disciplinary action.

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  1. For one: Institutions of learning, can NOT force students to do things that are against their moral convictions.
    Two: Notice, they specifically told them to do the “exercise” using a name that is generally honored and respected and connected to the Christian Judeo faith. If they would have even suggested writing the word mohammed on the paper and throwing it on the floor for the “exercise” there would be an international incident, and probably people murdered, buildings bombed, etc. (Of course, being a “religion of peace” the perpetrators would have gotten off completely unscathed.)
    This entire scenario STINKS… the stench of which should circle the globe and call attention to the deliberate atrocities going on here!!

  2. “While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.”

    Well of COURSE a university environment is a venue for dialogue and debate…unless you have the courage to voice an opposing view from your professor and then you and your opinion must be kicked of out class!

  3. I agree with Ben Charles. This entire scenerio stinks and yes, it is becoming more and more common. As sharia law will prevail, we are ALL in for a dark night. I am stunned at how all this is coming to pass and it is allowed…….

  4. This story has nothing to do with Muslims, yet you’re turning it into an attack on Islam. How cruel. How ignorant. How typical.

  5. Who is the idiot professor that assigned such a stupid exercise? He should be reprimanded and then chased out of higher learning. Absolutely no morals or common sense.

  6. Thanks for being a great example, Ryan!

  7. Ryan – way to choose the right and stand up for your faith. It’s wrong to compel someone to act in contradiction to their beliefs. Even crazier that he was suspended for standing up for his beliefs in an appropriate way. I smell a lawsuit coming!

  8. Ryan I commend you for standing up for Jesus our Lord and Savior. I am not a Mormon but a Baptist and I agree that what you did was the right thing to do. It is a rare occasion to see someone stand up for what they believe in. Especially when it comes to religion. And as for all those who would and will deny Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Remember this. He did for all of us on the cross for our sins. And all he asks of us is to believe in him 100% and to pray. I myself am extremely grateful to our Lord God Almighty who sent his son down on earth to die on Calvary for our sins to be washed away. As it says in the bible: John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. So Ryan you did great in Standing up and believing in Jesus and for what you believe in. I know that because of your actions, Jesus gave a great big smile and thanked you with all of his heart.

  9. It takes courage for a young man to go against a professor in this way. Thank you for having courage.
    I have to wonder just what this woman was trying to accomplish by forcing students to disrespect the sacred name of Jesus, even if it wasn’t sacred to her? It looks much more like a power game to me, and in incredibly poor taste, to say the least. Here she is supposedly trying to teach cultural communication, yet she’s completely insensitive herself. To ask him to behave in a way that would have him go against all he respects and holds dear, then to expel him from her class? Power game, my friends, That’s what this is about.
    That the university backed her and sustained the expulsion speaks badly indeed for the future of that school and its students.
    I am a Democrat and I find this action to be repulsive on the part of every participant except the young man. Mr Rotela. He is the only one with any integrity, any dignity.
    Shame on that teacher and that University.

  10. It seems the professor should consider the intended purpose, which was respecting the reactions and views of others. Many of the people preaching tolerance are themselves very intolerant of Christianity.

  11. I don’t recall anyone attacking the Muslim faith here… Just suggesting that if it had been Mohammads name what would have happened…. Lou would like to turn this around… Yeah, that’s pretty typical..

  12. This student did the right thing. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he honored God at persona risk. I am proud of him, and appalled that they disciplined him for having dignity, character and back bone. The professor had a lot of nerve asking people to do something so inappropriate, and insenstive. And this is not an attack on Muslims – as a Christian, I love Muslims and have lovely Muslim friends. However, it is true that if it were the name Mohammed or Allah they would be in big trouble from extremists, as has been shown in the past.

  13. There was a program started back in the 60s or 70s known as ‘Values Clarification’. It involved identifying students’ beliefs and values they’d been raised with, shocking them with some push-poll type question, denigrating what they believed, then guiding them into a more ‘tolerant’ outlook. Phrases like, ‘that’s YOUR truth’, ‘that’s old-fashioned’, ‘evolved people understand that we must change with the times’, and ‘your parents mean well, but…’, were strewn throughout the teachers’ guidelines. The purpose was to destabilize, then detach the students’ connection with family, then implant the approved mindset in them. This sounds quite similar.

  14. thank you for your great example Ryan! Stay brave and true!

  15. I emailed the professor and asked him, “Instead of Jesus why didn’t you have the students write Obama on a sheet of paper, have them think about it, then stomp on it? It is more relevant and would definitely have better stimulated the proposed discussion.” But since he is writing a book “Obamamania: The Rise of a Mythical Hero” I already knew the answer to my question. I wonder if a white professor had had their students do the the same exercise using Obama’s name instead if it would be considered racist? Of course it would, especially by this black leftist indoctrinator.

  16. I applaud the actions of this young man. That professor should be ashamed of such a power play. It’s all too common for educators to bully college students in the name of educational exploration. Since when does America discourage its citizens from showing integrity?

  17. It’s funny how “dialogue and debate” are a one-way street to these people. Why isn’t Ryan’s reaction part of a discussion instead of a reason to suspend him? Professors love diversity, until someone actually challenges them. Continue to stand, Ryan — don’t back down.

  18. Ryan was correct in reflecting his own feelings regarding the exercise. The prof didn’t even understand the exercise. So much for American education. Why would someone be suspended for politely reflecting his own beliefs in class. Where has fairness gone in the USA.

  19. What on earth is happening in America?
    It was once a land of religious freedom, which people from all over the world, fled to seek refuge from religious persecution!
    Now it’s a country where the mocking of religious symbols, can be described as higher education.
    What happens to you America???
    Ryan, your God and savior must be proud of you …

    Regards Bjarne
    Copenhagen, Denmark.

  20. He should have written Deandre Poole on the paper and stomped on that!

  21. I believe this is the website for the school –

    They have a contact button. Just take a few moments and send them a short email expressing your support for Ryan. Don’t send some crazy email, it won’t help. Just express your support for this young man who stood up for his beliefs.

  22. The student did exactly what the exercise was meant to make him do, express his values, reveal his culture! the exercise mentions nothing of having to stomp on the paper only to express why you do it, hesitate or won´t do it…apparently they have a teacher that can´t read a communication exercise and therein lies a huge problem!

  23. Where is the academic exercise where they STOMP on the name/picture of Muhammad?
    Oh no, that would never happen, as tolerance is the most hypocritical point of the liberal left. They preach tolerance only as long as you believe and follow progressivism.

  24. I don’t understand this liberal hate. I really don’t. And it’s cowardly as well. There are certain things that are okay to hate = christians, overweight people. Safe groups that don’t retaliate. It’s time to stop the hate. Even if we have to scare them the way some of these groups are too scary to pick on.

  25. Thank you, Ryan for being an example to other young people on the correct way to handle an uncomfortable situation. I’m praying that the end results of this are in your favor, and that God continues to guide and lead you. Once again,thank you for shining the light of Jesus! Somehow I believe that is how he would have handled the same situation. With class and grace! Good luck,sir!

  26. This story really annoys me – America, show some form! You shouldn’t allow this Professor to continue teaching students if this is how he/she will treat them, this is really appalling!.. Very disappointed, from New Zealand

  27. Thank you for being a great example and stand tall for your faith. You are a true Christian by standing firm and take the unjust consequence of your conviction. I’m not sure what went through the head of the professor. Doesn’t she realize, that this kind of behavior is medieval and highly disrespectful – imagine the upheaval if it was another name on this paper – of course Christianity was chosen as that was without cost. I’m completely in awe, that assumingly intelligent people in universities, news media etc, have an uncontrollable urge to offend and ridicule religion and bully people who has a faith, just because free speech allow it. Just think for a moment how many people got hurt (and offended) because an idiot here in Dk just had to make fun of Islam. What did that bring the world? I do not condone the violent reactions and the attempt on his life, but I didn’t see a need to mock Islam either.

    Many respectful greetings to you from a fellow Christian en Denmark.

  28. AMERICA – AMERICA! – What has happened to you – is this what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote your constitution – a constitution which stands as the beacon of freedom many other nations looked to, when they created their own?

    Is this how you will treat the brave and free children of your nation if they do not embrace atheism or Darwinism, which in terms too are religions, as no one yet has brought un-refutable first hand proof to their authenticity. What is happening to you??

  29. There’s one thing that stood out as odd to me: his claim that he was suspended from a class. I’ve heard of college students being suspended from school but I’ve never heard of anybody being suspended from a class.

    For those who applaud him for sticking by his convictions (as I do), I hope you also support others who stand by their convictions, such as agnostics/atheists who continue to fight for the removal of the word “God” from our pledge and on our money. We shouldn’t have beliefs we disagree with shoved down our throats by a school nor should we have them shoved down our throats by the government.

  30. Just thought I’d let you all know the picture above is of the professor not of the student.

  31. The school’s website states that it is “A public, four-year coeducational doctoral degree-granting university.” It is so sad that in today’s USA the word “public” more often than not means all members of society EXCEPT persons of faith and those with traditional morals. Thank you Ryan for standing up for your beliefs.

  32. Just sent an email to the school. Ryan thank you for standing up for what you believe. You are a great example.

    The professor chose the wrong action here. If she would have asked you why you felt the way you did and discussed it, this whole mess would have never happened.

    Medford, OR

  33. The comment made by Ben at the top is exactly the point of this exercise. People stand up for their beliefs and ignorantly stigmatize others. Ben said, “If they would have even suggested writing the word mohammed on the paper and throwing it on the floor for the “exercise” there would be an international incident, and probably people murdered, buildings bombed, etc. (Of course, being a “religion of peace” the perpetrators would have gotten off completely unscathed.).” Ben, there are many extreme Christians (see Westboro Baptist Church) who also blow things up and kill innocent people (see Norway Massacre of 2011) but the predominantly Christian United States doesn’t stigmatize Christians as hateful and murderous. Just because a few extremists exist within a religious body doesn’t mean you can stigmatize a whole group of people for those actions committed by the extreme few. The point of this exercise was to see how difficult it was to deface a cultural symbol that had some significance to some of the students, so stepping on a picture of Mohammed would have been pointless for all students except those of Islamic faith.

  34. Thank You for your Conviction Ryan! Many valid comments have been made regarding that fact that if this had been any other person, name, religion written on the paper that the results might have been totally different. College is supposed to enlarge our minds and understanding by exposing us to various types of views, opinions and concepts. Nowhere does it state in any approved books of higher learning that one need to go against their moral convictions or be suspended from their classes when they refuse to do so.
    I was a regular volunteer at my daughter’s school which had a make up of about 80-90% African American many years ago. She was given the assignment to do a presentation on a Great African American during the month of Martin Luther King’s Birthday. I felt that this was a dividing assignment as I had never experienced an assignment for Great Irish Americans or Great Hawaiian Americans, or Great Mexican Americans. I informed the teacher, who was black, that my daughter was not going to participate because I felt it was promoted racism and division of our culture. It should have been strictly an assignment of Great Americans! I never had a single problem afterward as I continued to volunteer and be supportive of the teacher and school.
    If the assignment goes against your moral fiber, make a stand, for if you fail to stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!

  35. It amazes me and depresses me that of all the deep and important articles posted on this site, this is the one that brings out the conservatives in such a thunder.

    I wish such energy and activism could be provoked for something that doesn’t seem so self-serving.

    I’ve not seen cindervative people as hot over homelessness, racial or sexual discrimination, war & violence, poverty or even abortion.

    But a paper stomp stirs it up.

    I don’t understand these times.

  36. Update: The school has apologized for the incident and says the exercise will no longer be used. Ever.

    With all due respect, Eric, it amazes me that we even have to cover these kinds of stories in a country that was founded by people seeking religious freedom. The paper stomp is just an outward manifestation of something much larger.

  37. Just out of curiosity, I wonder what would have happened if the teacher had first asked his students to write the word ‘Chocolate Cake’ on the paper, and then ask them to eat it. I suspect very few would have done it. “Writing the word ‘chocolate cake’ on a piece of paper doesn’t make it so…. it doesn’t even improve the flavor.”

    Next, if he asked his students to do as is described in the article, I wonder what would have happened… I’m just curious.

    I find these two exercises very instructive

  38. Just out of curiosity, I wonder what would have happened if the teacher had first asked his students to write the word ‘Chocolate Cake’ on the paper, and then ask them to eat it. I suspect very few would have done it.
    Performing these two experiments in conjunction might have created differing results. I wonder.

  39. He didn’t want to hurt the paper’s feelings…

  40. Ryan!! I wrote up a rant and it disappeared off of my screen…You are my personal hero. Who thinks of these immature ideas of stomping on a piece of paper?? I would not stomp on a paper if it had anything I loved on it. If you put the name of my six children on it, I would not stomp!! If you put any great leader who professed love to all nations and to each other and walked the walk, I would not stomp on it. Does noone believe in personal integrity any more??? This professor and many others have too much control and in this case got away with it (for now). Your country was founded on religious freedom! People left Europe and other places to find this freedom and now you are trying to penalize someone who refuses to stomp on this symbolic piece of paper? It is NOT the paper. It is what he stands for. Ryan, you are going on my personal hero list! You took the hit from the “virtual gun pointed at you” and said “Sorry, this is who I believe in. I am not going to stomp on it!!” Florida Atlantic University, your ratings should drop below the bar for this one. How closed minded and unconstitutional to have suspended Ryan for even a moment in time. Wait until the Christian world gets a hold of this!! Go Ryan!! We are behind you 100%

  41. Since when is refusing to complete a single assignment grounds for suspension from a college course? Students often skip assignments in college for stupid reasons and nothing is done to them. This professor overreacted to a student taking a stand–even if a professor asks something to demonstrate a point about symbolism. Rotela’s reaction should have led to a discussion of different levels of commitment and how symbolism can be strong to many. Many students resist the learning they are asked to partake of for many reasons including narrowmindedness, laziness, or even a stronger commitment to something–It’s their personal responsibility if they choose to absorb the instruction given or refuse it.The responsibility of professors is to give the opportunity for different ideas, not to force the student to adopt those ideas.

  42. Wen I was at college I was told that the whole purpose of third level education is Tao encourage freedom of thought. How can your establishment claim to be a legitimate University if it compels students to do something that is at odds with their principles. Well done Ryan and Shame on that idiot professor and Shame on the institution that supported his sectarianism.

  43. So the idiot professor who teaches to understand others’ beliefs cannot understand others’ beliefs?

  44. Did anyone of you even read the assignment? Some of you ask why anyone would assign such a stupid assignment, it says so in the article, if you would read it. To address issues of symbolism. The whole point was to watch the students hesitate, then ask why they hesitated and evaluate that. The point is not the stomping, even though you’re all so fervently focused on that, and the point does not the religious context that is placed on the assignment. The point is simply to draw attention to how ingrained the meaning of symbols are into us and to examine that. Your offended reactions are proof of this as all you can deduce from reading this is “they stompin on mah Jesus!” Even the teacher missed the point, you’re not supposed to force a student to step on the paper, you’re only supposed to observe the reaction of the student when told to step on the paper and evaluate that. There was no need to suspend the student and no need for a conflict between the student and the professor. If anything, what was supposed to happen was exactly what happened and both the student and professor held so steadfastly to their own dogmas that they both missed an important learning opportunity.

  45. Where were the other Christians in this class? Why could they not also stand up for their beliefs in Jesus Christ like Ryan did? For all those that question if Mormon’s are Christians, hopefully this will remind them that yes, Mormon’s are Christians. The actions of this professor and the administration at FAU are appalling. If the professor had asked the students to write the name of any Mohammad, Budah or another religious leader there most certainly would have been mayhem. It’s pathetic for the school and the public to let him get away with this. Also, the fact that he is a leader in the democratic party is very disturbing. If a leader of the republican party did something like this, there would be calls for resignation. There is so much hypocrisy that has taken place here that it is truly disturbing.

  46. If you read the lesson instructions, you will see that the object of the lesson was not to stomp on the paper. The object of the lesson was to have each student decide whether or not the words were culturally important enough to refuse.

    The lesson instructions clearly state “Most will hesitate.”

    Students were not required to stomp on anything. They were required to put the paper on the floor, and then follow their convictions, and EXPLAIN WHY they chose to stomp (or not stomp) on the words.

    The exercise was meant to be a springboard for discussion on the importance of cultural symbols in our lives.

    The teacher failed miserably by not understanding this. It sounds like he used it as a display of power, rather than the interesting lesson it could have been for his students.

    The fact that the student was a Mormon, the word on the paper was “Jesus” or that the teacher was black or a member of a political party have NOTHING TO DO with the fact that a teacher mis-interpreted the goal of the object lesson, and failed to enlighten his class with a meaningful discussion of deeply held cultural values.

    What we need are better teachers. Perhaps if we recruited the very best and paid them well, (at least as well as sports stars) we would rank number one in the world in education once again.

  47. I admire & respect Ryan Rotela so very much for having the courage to refuse to follow his professor in doing something that was offensive to him and violated his love, respect and devotion to the Savior! I do not see any value to education to stomp on a picture of the Savior of all mankind. I am so thankful that the university has apologized and stated that the exercise will no longer be used ever! Our country will prosper only when we remember to respect the freedoms of others to worship how, where or what they may. We can honor the rights of all men & women by defending their freedom of religious beliefs even if they differ from our own. We need to work together as Americans and be united in the beliefs that our founding Fathers established in the Constitution to allow all men the privilege of following the dictates of their own conscience. We can live together in mutual respect and peace when we remember to regard and value the feelings and beliefs of others.

  48. The university says that “..a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate,” And then they suspend the student for participating in the debate. A new slogan: “This is the place for debate….we’ll have no disgreements here.” Amazing

  49. To Eric Blauer: I consider myself a conservative in most substantive areas of thought and I must tell you that I am just as angry about racism and sexism as I am about intolerance toward Christianity. The trouble is, real racism and real sexism have been cheapened by a media which claims any reasonable objection to a person’s ideas are founded in one of the two. I would take a stand against racism if I ever actually saw any. And I believe that women deserve just as much respect as men, if not for the same reasons. But I have never witnessed a true case of either. When I do, I guarentee I will be just as upset and will take as strong a stand as you would. Until then, I will focus on issues that are current, imminent and present.

    To Allen West: Your analogy is mistaken. You are correct in saying the word cake is not cake itself. But such thinking cannot apply to the profound. To stomp on the US Flag is to disrespect the country. To disrepect the name of Jesus is to disrespect His importance to the Christian faith. Ryan is absolutely correct when he says that stomping on something show it has not value. It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Sticks and stones may break your bones but words cut so much deeper. The name of Jesus is just as holy as Jesus Himself. In the Bible, He is described, not just as the Son of God, but also as the Word. This is more than metaphor. The 3rd Commanment says that you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. Jesus is Lord, therefore stomping on His name is wrong, for anyone who professes to be a Christian. Even for Mormons, like Ryan, Jesus’ name is deserving of respect. That is why it is wrong to do what this instructor told them to do.

    I must agree with much of what has been said previously, that our nation is one of hypocrisy and false tolerance. The only God not allowed, Jesus, because He and His pose a threat to liberalism, the practice of all-powerful, all-knowing, all-caring pharisees of the modern world. They refuse to be supplanted by God.

  50. I’d say, Ryan…time to transfer to another university – preferably one which is truly an institution of higher learning. Clearly Florida Atlantic University at Davie, Fla isn’t able to grasp the concept of “higher” learning and is stuck in high school mode.

  51. What if the word on the paper was “Homosexual”????

  52. The exercise sounds silly, but what’s really disturbing is that he was let go from the class. Where exactly is that venue for open exploration and discussion?

  53. As a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints myself, I would never stomp on a piece of paper with words or symbols on it that represented ANY faith OR group of people, no matter whether I shared the same opinions or beliefs–it’s just hateful and disrespectful. What surprises me is that he was the only student uncomfortable with the exercise–shame on the others for not taking a stand.

  54. Here is my email to the School.
    The actions to suspend Ryan Rotela is a reflection or your school. I assume you are getting and will continue to get much deserved backlash from this action. Your press release said “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,” and last time I checked “Dialogue and debate” required that you have opposing views. So the fact that Mr. Poole could not defend his actions or his point of view required that he not have the discussion? Or does it mean that you are NOT a University? That is a poor education you are offering and I doubt that you will win many hearts or minds with such a narrow mindset. My children will quite a game because they do not like the outcome. Mr. Poole should man up and take the heat that is coming his way.

  55. Why are more and more people getting punished for standing up for Jesus? Oh I know why, because they can’t fathom the fact that they are not perfect and almighty and that HE is. Thank you hater for dissing our Lord and Savior because in the process, he has gained more popularity. 🙂

  56. Good for you! … you did the right thing. What can you possibly learn by such dis-respect at the college level.

  57. He should be grateful to be suspended, that way he can seek real truth somewhere else and not be obligated to a spiritually toxic teacher.

    What can we expect when God is removed from our nation? This is what happens. It’s quite sad :/

  58. I agree with Joshua. Take time to write Noemi Marin, director of the school of communication and multimedia studies at

  59. Lou, Ben Charles is simply showing that this class activity is completely unbalanced and unworkable and unfair. Do you really doubt that stomping on Muhammad’s name would cause an international incident and the deaths of innocent people? (if you do, I can send you a load of press coverage.) Since your answer has to be no–you aren’t so confident that such an action would not end in violence, then clearly the class cannot allow anyone to stomp on Muhammad. Therefore the class is inherently unfair because–out of fear–it will restrict whose name can be stomped. This kind imbalance and unfairness invalidates an educational exercise–not simply in terms of rights and fairness, but in terms of academic integrity and truthfulness. The comment about Muslims is valid and germane for the reasons I’ve cited.

  60. Many people, especially in academia, do not understand or appreciate that symbols are extremely important. Perhaps the person who wrote the course material and the teacher do not understand this and are, effectively, useful idiots.

    The intelligentsia and the Left have always been about tearing down institutions (government, marriage, religion) and their symbols (the flag, vows, the cross) without understanding that societies are bound together by covenants and the symbols that represent them. If you denigrate or ignore the symbol, you denigrate and demean what the symbol represents.)

    The source of all this is the “Father of all lies” and he is at the height of his power.

  61. I’m an atheist, and I wholeheartedly support Mr. Rotela in his dispute against the university. Unless there’s a lot more to this story, I cannot fathom why the school would suspend him from the class.

  62. Ridiculous. If a university is for open exchange of ideas… why throw this guy out of the class? And glad to know that the man whose picture is at the beginning of the article was the instructor, not the student. Usually, Christians look happier.

  63. Everyone who reads this should forward this story and the email address for the President of FAU. Behavior like this discredits her entire university and everyone who has received a degree from there. Her name is Mary Jane Saunders and her email address is president Ron Bulger is the Executive Administrator and Director of Board Operations and his email is Take a minute and let them know how you feel.
    “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
    Sir Edmund Burke

  64. Here’s an exercise for you: Write FAU on a piece of paper, put it in front of you, and stomp on it.

    So, if the university is a venue for dialogue and debate, why was this student suspended from the class for participating in dialogue and debate?? I don’t get it…

  65. I emailed the President of FAU,, she might enjoy hearing from all of us!!!! No abuse, just state the facts. Thanks!!!

  66. This is awful and insulting if true, but there is often another side to the story that’s not being told on something that sounds this absurd and offensive. I’d be interested to hear more of the school’s side because this rings as something where we’re not being told the whole story here.

    I’ll also say that the political affiliation of the professor doesn’t have anything to do with anything and I don’t think it’s a failure by the local press to not mention it. That’s not a relevant point in this story.

  67. Ryan should receive an A in the class for having the courage to stand up. Ryan is the type of person universities should be proud to have as a graduate of their school. This is the type of person you want to be sending out to jobs, people with conviction! I would hire this man in a split second. I’m for Team Ryan!!

  68. The lesson allowed for this yet he was suspended anyways?

    “Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper,” the lesson instructed. “Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

  69. Just an FYI to all Muslims–I took a paper out, wrote “Muhammed” on it in several different spellings and languages, and stomped on it.

    You’re welcome. 🙂


  71. Also a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I echo Michelle’s comment above that I would not stomp on or degrade in any way, the name, symbol or beliefs of any faith or group of people. Respect for others and their beliefs is a basic teaching of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, …a basic teaching of the L.D.S. Church.,whether we agree or disagree with those beliefs. ..this is contained in our Thirteen Articles of Faith and in all our teachings generally. I belive this young man, Ryan Rotela would have refused to degrade the name of Mohammed , Mother Theresa,
    Buddha or any person or group of persons. ………………….I am stunned and saddened that any professor, teacher, leader of any kind could act in the way described above and would also like to hear ” the rest of the story “. I am more acutely grieved by comments of hatred toward others that I have seen printed in these comments. That is not the way to foster Peace.

  72. The school claims the exercise was to encourage students to view things from different perspectives. Where is the indication from this professor and school administration of their ability to do the same? If you disasgree with therm then you are reprimanded? Apparentyly you are supposed to examine different perspectives but only as long as the perspective is the one the professor and school adminstration hold, otherwise you are wrong. My, how open minded of them.

  73. Many people are intolerant by virtue of their ignorance. The solution to that would clearly be education. If one is informed one can disagree with dignity.
    This is not the case for this situation. Disagreement was not dignified on the part of the instructor. Ignorance was kept as an excuse for intolerance. All of this because an educator refused to be educated.
    I do not have the numbers at hand, but the three largest religions of the world are Judeo-Christian, Muslim, and Buddaism/Hinduism. (And, yes, I know Buddaism is not the same as Hinduism) those commenters calling for Mohammed’s name are not appropriate in their extreme assumptions, but given the population numbers, the direction taken for a prominent name isn’t surprising.
    From my reading of this article and comments I feel we as a group that the actions taken by the instructor and school were inappropriate. What can be done to improve society to a point where this behavior is not considered as an appropriate exercise at all? I have heard of a similar exercise to teach students about bullying. Each student has a paper that they are to mangle with the caveat that the paper must remain intact. They stomp, wad up, spit on, fold into continuous creases, etc. The teacher then instructs the students to “fix” the paper. Obviously, too many things leave permanent scars much worse than broken bones or rotten apples thrown at you. Students engage in a discussion on bullying and it’s many forms.
    This college instructor has just used her pseudo power to truly bully a student who refused to symbolically bully another person, religious figure or not. I hope and pray daily for more people like this student.

  74. Thank you Ryan for your great example! That is something that our young people need in the world today…COURAGE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT!, no matter waht others may think. I would love to share this story with our young people in seminary and institute of religion programs. May you continue to have the courage to stand up for what you believe in.
    Wish you all the best in your searching for more education.
    Aleni – Apia, SAMOA.

  75. Stand behind you Ryan!

  76. What exactly was the point of the exercise? I’m grateful my university professors were intelligent and allowed said dialogue and debate. Perhaps, America, your religious freedom is not so free after all?

    All the best Brother Rotela, find a uni that is worthy of your standards.

  77. I wonder what would have happened had the teacher selected a different iconic symbol… say the stars and stripes or the flag of the UN?
    If the teacher was any good then he would have been able to creatively indicate this exercise without the obvious prejudice in the name of ‘opening the minds of students’.
    In my humble opinion as a university graduate and fellow devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England it saddens me the lengths some people go to in order to legitimise their often misguided notions. In my opinion they suspended the wrong person…should have been the teacher! Religeous freedom was one of the founding principles in the US constitution as I remember, what happened to that?

  78. I get a feeling this will not be the last we will hear of this type of religious bashing from the militant liberals. I think it’s a shame we’re getting to where this could be common in higher ed. Thank you Ryan for standing up for your faith. Like it’s been said by the rest of us, had it been another name like Mohammed, muslims would be hurt beyond forgiving America.

  79. It is wrong for a college professor to “make” a student do anything. University and college are supposed to be about learning who you are and making your own decisions free of outsiders and parents. I am a proud ex-Mormon and don’t even believe in Jesus, certainly not as a so-called “Son of God.” However, people have religious convictions, and since it is part of their own, independent thought, should never be put in such a rude and pointless position of compromise. I’d like to see what would happen if this exercise were conducted by putting the words “The Prophet Mohammed” on a piece of paper and then asking students to stomp on it. How do you think that would turn out in the end? And know what? All the looting and burning that came afterward would be justified, too. Don’t people think these things through?

  80. What is this? The 3rd grade?
    Universities should be about dialog, classical argument, debate… it is supposed to be a learning environment. Not an indoctrination, an education.

  81. Good news, everyone. The school has relented, apologized to the student and is wiping his record clean.

    More here:

  82. I hope and pray that this University and the Professor are held responsible for their actions against Ryan Rotela. After reading the article I have two points to argue; if they have quoted the written lesson correctly and the reaction of the class then Ryan should never have been punished.

    First: They quote the lesson as saying “Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

    The key phrase here is “Most will hesitate” clearly states that not everyone will participate, it does not say its required! To “discuss the importance of symbols in culture” should also include showing respect for that culture.

    Second: This is the most troubling part of the report. As quoted “While some in the class completed the exercise, Rotela did not” This statement clearly says “some” it does not say “all” again it says “some” completed the exercise, so did the other “some” that didn’t complete exercise also get suspended?

    The fact that it states “Most will hesitate” is a show of respect that others may have for their culture and others, or a simple manifestation of their culture and the values within it.

  83. Thanks Joe Newby, for the update.

  84. You’re welcome, Ken.

  85. I wonder how the professor would feel if Dr Martin Luther King’s or Rosa Parks’ name or likeness were placed on the paper that was to be stomped?

  86. I don’t understand why his refusal to stomp on the paper would warrant being suspended from class. The very thing the school’s officials tout “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,” is exactly what happened, from what the story says. But it also says that “some” completed the exercise, which tells me he wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t do it. There’s gotta be more to the story…not to mention, what does the professors political affiliation have to do with anything?

  87. Since it’s important to see things from all sides why don’t we have students watch videos of child pornography and participate in murder? Not all sides need to be seen or understood. This teacher was outside of the bounds a teacher should ever take.

  88. It takes a Mormon, which a lot of other Christian religions that do not believe to be Christian, to truly act like a Christian in the face of adversity. Maybe we should start to accept Mormons as true Christians. I would say Ryan sure is. Thanks Ryan.

  89. I would like to see an explanation from the school, not that I believe there is anything they could say to lessen my disgust over their utter stupidity and complete hypocrisy. If the purpose of that “lesson” was to encourage students to view issues from many different perspectives then where is the evidence of that in how the professor and administration handled things? It would seem the only perspective allowed in this school is that of the professor and administration. They profess to want students to view different perspectives but their actions say they only reward mindless robots. Very courageous that this man stood up for his beliefs but terribly sad the matter was handled by administration the way it was. I would like to see this establishment held accountable for their actions and for there to be changes made. What do you suppose are the odds of that? I’m curious if promoting hate would be an accurate description? What if the word on the paper had been Jew or Gay or Mohammad or Black or Immigrant or Disabled or any number of words, would the action then be considered promoting hate or just a harmless lesson? How about a different perspective, what if the name on the paper had been that of the professor’s wife or daughter or granddaughter or that of an administrator would that be a harmless thought provoking lesson?

  90. Great job Ryan for standing up for your beliefs… shame on the instructor for manipulating his authority in such a way to discgrace the universityuniversity, but what is still amazing to me is the comments made to us ignorant people for making it a racisist issue when other religeous symbols were usedend en, for those of you making these ignorant comments… there were just being used as an example example, they were not being used to start a waw… it still amazes me how people only see what they want and their own ignorance is was starts battles instead of commending the people involved simple for making the right choices… open your eyes people to the real issues at hand!!!

  91. Thank you, Ryan, for your integrity! Keep on shining!

  92. Seems to me that the professor somehow entirely missed the point of the exercise. A Christian student was *supposed* to be reluctant to step on the paper; refusal was certainly not beyond the pale of the reactions anticipated by the textbook authors. This in and of itself was supposed to be the point of the discussion to follow.

    Deandre Poole seems to be among those remarkable dunderheads who miss the point of any interesting exercise.

  93. Mormon’s lament as he watched his nation completely destroy itself:

    17 O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!

    18 Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.

    19 O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!

    20 But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.

    21 And the day soon cometh that your mortal must put on immortality, and these bodies which are now moldering in corruption must soon become incorruptible bodies; and then ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works; and if it so be that ye are righteous, then are ye blessed with your fathers who have gone before you.

    22 O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But behold, ye are gone, and the Father, yea, the Eternal Father of heaven, knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy.

  94. I think this is a perfectly reasonable exercise to illustrate the point as outlined in the text. And Ryan behaved very reasonably in defense of his beliefs. I think this is exactly what such an exercise is intended for: To look at how symbols (such as a written word) are used in our culture.

    However, I believe the university’s actions were incredibly wrong in suspending Ryan. This could have been a great opening of a thoughtful dialogue, the kind of thing for which people purchase a university education. Obviously we don’t know any of the precise dialogue that took place, but this is a sad example of blowing something out of proportion.

    Ryan- way to stand up for your beliefs. It took a lot of bravery to walk away from the fight the university tried to start.

  95. Well done, thou good and faithful a servant.

  96. Way to refuse a request that no one who loves Christ should be asked to do, especially in this country. I would like to see how quickly students would have responded to this, not with another religious figure on the paper but their mom’s name. This was meant to be a degrading exercise and all involved knew it. I look at this as someone choosing not to stomp on someone they care about. I’m glad to see someone so young is willing to show that he will not mistreat those he cares about for the sake of “going along” and learning an important lesson on how we are all mind controlled.

  97. Terrible reporting, SpokaneFaV. Rotela was NOT suspended for refusing to perform the exercise. The whole point of the exercise was to illicit refusals from the students.
    The student was suspended because he decided that instead of simply declining to participate like any decent Christian would have, he was going to insult and threaten the professor.
    All of the students (and there were many) who declined without threatening the professor were not suspended.

  98. Elizabeth Deighton

    well done young man. You are a credit to your family and Church (yes I am a Mormon) I live in a very high Muslim area and would be upset if any religious name was treated so. Love and tolerance for every ones belief or none is the only way forward. God bless you. I would be so proud of a Grandson of mine doing the same

  99. I am currently in an intercultural communication class with SWCU and this kind of exercise would never happen. It was useless, stupid, and biased. I fully believe in learning and experiencing new things, but this kind of thing has no point to it. It has nothing to do with communicating with someone from another culture. It serves no purpose but to offend and humiliate. I agree with the people who stated that if the name of Mohammed or Buddha would have been chosen, what would have been the backlash? Why do so many people feel the compulsion to pick on Jesus anyways? He healed the sick and raised the dead and died for our sins. He lived a sinless life and yet people to this day still feel the need to slander him. What is the point?

  100. As a fellow Mormon, I am moved by this story.

    “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:10

  101. This kind of exercise is very offensive and insulting. For example, what if the professor had the students stomp on the American flag? Or on pictures of their loved ones? The professor should have thought twice before she went on with the exercise. Pushing a political agenda in a college class seems unprofessional and she needs to be fired.

  102. The most ironic part of the story is the university’s initial response defending the professor – “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” – I’m hard-pressed to think of any statement more ironically hypocritical than this one. He was suspended without any discussion, dialogue, or debate; let alone an “open discourse” on the subject. This a fairly apropos example of fascism from the top – down.

    I don’t understand how people can’t see that there has been a very real attempt by the federal government to develop a voting mass of indoctrinated dependents starting with universities, all the way down to elementary schools that are dependent upon federal and state governments for their funding. How can we expect to have independent thought when the schools are run by the government? Even professors at private institutions are somewhat dependent on govt. grants for their research if they want tenure and department funding.

  103. Sounds like a case of a mediocre professor who was teaching directly from the textbook but failed to understand the intent or the directions involved in the (however tasteless)exercise. Then one of his students gives the kind of thoughtful, impassioned response the textbook writer(s) anticipated. The professor, instead of using the opportunity to start a stimulating class discussion, takes the student’s response personally (because he doesn’t really know his subject and is therefore afraid of being challenged). The ironic part is that the university defended the professor. They should be distancing themselves from the unenlightened boob.

  104. Seems to me the context and purpose (as I interpret it) is all but lost on most here. Wasn’t the whole point of the exercise to elicit and provoke discussion of a pertinent issue of our/other cultures, which is the consequences of mocking or disrespecting religious symbolism?

    Perhaps the method was crass but it’s message was indeed provocative.

    I am not convinced all the details over the ‘suspension’ have been reported (as clearly any punishment within that particular context is unwarranted).

    While perhaps not akin to defecating on a Koran or Bible, the knee jerk outrage over the ‘stomping on the word Jesus’ is just somewhat a lesser form of irrational nonsense.

    I happen to think it was a rather novel method to invoke an important dialogue about empathy and respect (or lack there of). Perhaps one who participates in an ‘intercultural communications class’ should be a little more flexible and open-minded.


  105. The Supervisor & Professor should both be disciplined, if not fired for handling this so unprofessionally it is terrible. This has cast a shadow of shame and I will never send my children to a University that supports such awful and disrespectful actions against any religious figure.

  106. The story is interesting. I was disappointed in the school upholding the decision. Students should be free to hold to their religious convictions.

    I was extremely disappointed by the author’s weak attempt to blame the democratic party. Mentioning party affiliation, where it isn’t relevant to the story, is bad journalism. Shifting the story from irresponsible collegiate government to a party system which, though you might dislike them, really has nothing to do with the story or the actions taken here.

    I am very disappointed in Joe Newby for this weak attempt to make a legitimate story into a party attack, and in this website for hosting this garbage.

  107. I agree with Ryan Rotela on this! I am a Mormon and would also have refused. My right to practice my religion is still a right (at least it was when I woke up this morning).

  108. Not even religious, but this is why Christians fail. They’re complacent and docile. I hope he at least plans to sue as I’ve seen schools sued for far less.

    If that had been me suspended, you can guarantee I would have showed “sensitive subjects and symbolism” by blowing up a picture of the professor, with his phone and address, and a gun photoshopped in his mouth. See how he feels about that and if he protests he’s just culturally insensitive.

    Being an evil dick works both ways.

  109. “a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate”

    Isn’t part of debate taking a stance?

    If the professor had tried to impose God on students, he would be the one suspended from class, yet it is perfectly acceptable to bring Jesus into the classroom provided it is derogatory in nature

  110. It seems the purpose of the activity was to get people who feel deeply about something to speak up about it, while including a self-selection element contained within the activity itself to select who would really feel deeply about something that that textbook may believe is cultural. Ryan obviously passed the test.

    But what I fail to see, especially referring to scotty’s comment, is how the student should be more flexible and open-minded. Engaging in a true intercultural communications experience has most often for me involved exposing myself. Not just in the sterile, third-person point of view kind of exposure, but the exposure where me, myself, became exposed and therefore even vulnerable to someone else’s full capabilities.

    Some people mentioned Muslims and Islam and alluded to times when riots came as a result of actions taken (also in my home state of Florida, actually) intended to disrespect something that Muslims hold sacred. I have been in cabs and cafes with Muslims, speaking with them on their terms, and had many lessons taught to me about intercultural communications… I’m still trying to learn them, and I’ve had several sweet memories with those rich lessons.

    I ask myself, how can anybody really have intercultural communication without really feeling for the other person’s feelings and beliefs? A man named Krister Stendahl gave what I believe can be a name for that feeling in what’s called “Stendahl’s three rules of religious understanding.” It is “holy envy.”

    Unless someone knows enough about why others would stand up so vehemently for some belief, any belief, then is he or she ever really able to communicate with the other in anything outside of a commercial or informational context?

    I say props to Ryan. I believe you acted out of the love and respect and reverence that you had for Someone you believed to be greater than yourself, but Who is still reaching to you in even greater love.

    That’s a culture that I hope I will live up to as an individual, a follower of a religion and God, an American, and as a member of the human family.

  111. There is nothing wrong with a discussion and open dialogue about anything, but the irony lies in the fact that the teacher was totally closed-minded. The actions of this student actually was an asset to their lesson to prove their point about how much symbols (including words) have and can hold meaning in our society. Also, the actions of this university toward this student are in direct violation of their own rules to have open discussion and dialogue!

    But, most important of all – there is a clear and distinct Constitutional Right and that is ‘Freedom of Religion.’ This very right was what this nation was founded upon and why immigrants originally sacrificed so much to come to this land. This student is protected by way of 3 laws: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, and the Separation of Church & State. The school has no right to tell a student to perform an act that is against their religious beliefs and practices. So, this teacher and university are the ones breaking the laws of the land, and their own school!!!! -Not this student!

    If I was him I would definitely take legal actions against them. He has every right to. And, I am sure countless people in this country who believe in being able to practice their religions: Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and countless other religious groups, would stand in defense of this gentlemen who stood up for his right to respect and practice his religion, which they would and should also do! And part of his right was to choose not to stomp on the name Jesus. Just as others would not stomp on the names of important figures/people/Gods/Spirits in their faith.

  112. John VanDerWalker

    The point of the exercise was to lift up the importance and power of symbols. Mission accomplished. I am surprised by some of the vitriol above. I am also surprised by how many have missed the point especially the professor. I think the professor should be reprimanded for not exploiting the perfect opportunity to talk about the power of symbol just as the exercise was designed. The instructor missed the boat and could have turned it into an excellent exchange on the designed point. For me personally to stomp on the name of Jesus would be problematic, even offensive, so I wouldn’t do it. However, people of faith can not hold the other class members or the professor as prisoners to their values and principles. This is a mess because the professor is to occupied to make a point of what the gentleman said.

  113. So is Mormon (real name: The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints) a christian religion?

    YES IT IS.

    Its the one true church of JESUS CHRIST Restored in Latter Days for preparation for his second coming to reign King on earth.

    Jesus is the Christ and he lives. He the only Savior of the world and the Son of God. All others are just prophets including Joseph Smith, Mohammed and Buddha.

    He is hated because he is the chosen one, willing to make the sacrifice and do the Father’s will while others did not. Now he is about to receive his rightful heritage everyone is hating on him – human nature. True story.

    I believe in Jesus Christ. I would die for his name. I am a Christian. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint…nicknamed Mormons.

    Happy Sabbath. God Bless.

  114. Björn Engelbrektsson

    The contradiction is stunning. Many so called liberals are so narrow minded. They don’t understand the depth of religious feelings. Respect that which is sacred to others!!! Including Jesus, the Bible, but also Mohammed, the Koran …

  115. Great job standing up for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you for standing faithful for the teachings of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. Thank you for being valiant for what is right and true. May the Lord bless and preserve you forever 🙂

  116. Wow! This is the longest thread I’ve seen here so far. A lot of big feelings there.

    What I imagine is that the point of such an exercise is NOT to defile the sacred, but rather to draw attention to the fact that we hold ideas sacred and that for no rational reason, we feel squeamish or (in this case) offended by any intention to defile the sacred. But one person’s sacred is another person’s mundane.

    So here is an exercise that puts you in a moral dilemma: Do you obey authority or do you defile the sacred?

    This was sort of stupid on’ the teachers’ part. Anyone who studies such things understands that these are EXACTLY the emotions that drive people to violence out in the “real world.” The fact that a student complained was probably something he could have predicted.

    As far as I’m concerned this is a tempest in a tea-pot though. Names aren’t sacred, that’s just silly.

    People are.

  117. Well done Ryan.

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