Florida Atlantic University has apologized for a controversial classroom lesson that led critics to accuse the school of religious intolerance. But that hasn't stopped Gov. Rick Scott from stepping into the fray.
Scott penned a letter to State University System chancellor Frank Brogan Tuesday demanding an investigation. "I am requesting a report of the incident, how it was handled and a statement of the university's policies to ensure this type of 'lesson' will not occur again," Scott wrote.
Earlier this month, an FAU instructor told students in an intercultural communications class to write the word "Jesus" on a piece of paper, throw it on the floor and stomp on it. A student later complained he was thrown out of class when he refused to participate, a charge the university denies.
The university initially defended the assignment, saying it was supposed to make students uncomfortable as they dealt with the power of words. Students were expected to hesitate and the lesson was intended to expose the emotional connection to cultural symbols, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel's overview of the lesson plan.
The incident became fodder on blogs and among conservatives, who questioned whether such liberties would have been taken with other religions.
This week, FAU released a statement apologizing for the lesson. "This exercise will not be used again," the school said. "… We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.
"No students were forced to take part in the exercise; the instructor told all of the students in the class that they could choose whether or not to participate," the university went on to say. "No students will be disciplined in any way related to this exercise, either inside or outside the classroom.
That's not enough for Scott.
"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 judgement," Scott wrote. "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."