When it comes to jumping to conclusions, Gov. Rick Scott is a hard guy to figure out.
I used to think that our governor was extremely reluctant to jump. But that was last year, when an avoidable shooting of an unarmed black teenager put a national spotlight on Florida’s then 7-year-old “Stand Your Ground” gun law.
“I’m a firm supporter of the Second Amendment,” Scott said. “I also want to make sure that we do not rush to conclusions about the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or any other laws in our state.”
Now, Florida’s the national focus on another front. An adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University teaching an intercultural communications class was following a textbook exercise that called for students to write the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper, then instructing them to step on the paper.
“Most will hesitate,” the teacher handbook says. “Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”
One student in that FAU class, Ryan Rotela, objected to the voluntary classroom exercise, and made a complaint to the news media, saying his professor, Deandre Poole, told him to “stomp on Jesus” and that Rotela was suspended from class for his refusal to participate.
Rotela’s complaint reverberated, especially after Poole also was identified as the vice chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.
“It’s possible (Poole) comes in with a particular agenda or bias,” said Fox & Friends co-host Alisyn Camerota.
“People wonder what’s wrong with higher education,” Fox host Mike Huckabee said on the same show.”This is what’s wrong with higher education.”
This would have been a good time for Gov. Scott to ask for people not to jump to conclusions.
The governor might have pointed out that Poole was following an exercise written by a professor at a Catholic college in Wisconsin, an exercise that has been used for 10 years in colleges without incident. And that the exercise was designed to be an affirmation of faith and a recognition of the emotional power that disrespect of religion carries — a way for students to understand the strong reactions other cultures have to disrespect for their own religion.
The governor also might have pointed out that Rotela may have been suspended from class because he threatened the professor, as Poole has claimed. Not all the facts are in, Scott might have said.
Instead, Scott called the student to offer an apology and initiated an investigation of the matter in a letter that already made clear that his mind was made up.
“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,” he wrote.
So to recap, Scott’s more willing to jump to conclusions to fan the flames of ignorance about a college exercise at FAU than he is to stop the number of unarmed Floridians who are killed by a gun law that sanctions unnecessary bloodshed.