Unbelievable. It reads like something from the The Onion. An atheist Humanities professor at Polk State College in Lakeland, Florida, failed a student because she refused to concede to his views that Christ is a myth, Christianity is violent, homosexuality isn’t a sin, and other ideas.
Lance Russum failed 16-year-old Grace Lewis on four weekly assignments. Liberty Counsel represents Lewis, who has a 3.9 GPA. From the press release:
Russum’s classroom behavior is a reflection of his personal biases. Mr. Russum’s Facebook likes and profile pictures include Fidel Castro and Jesus Christ making an obscene gesture. The website “Rate my Professor” shows that G.L. is not the first student to be subjected to the professor’s viewpoint discrimination. His college email signature line includes a quote from a Marxist who praises Lenin, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and Adolf Hitler. These, along with the inappropriate course content, show that Professor Russum is seeking to impose his own values on students, in violation of the Constitution.
Although Liberty Counsel doesn’t mention firing the professor in the press release, a local newspaper reported that the group sent a letter demanding he be fired, which Polk State has refused to do. The school contended that the professor wasn’t “discriminatory or abusive” in failing Lewis, and the assignments represented a “robust exchange of ideas.”
So does “exchange” in this case only mean rejecting one’s faith, or does defending the faith count? Naturally, the school doesn’t want to admit fault or throw the professor under the bus, but unless there are facts yet to be uncovered, this seems to be an obvious case of failing a student based on her religious beliefs. The high-toned, eight-page response from the school masks the real issue.
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