Last Sunday, I did a post on the 2014 movie “God’s Not Dead,” which I highly recommend.
The movie is mainly about a college freshman named Josh Wheaton who is commanded, as all the other students in the class are, by his atheistic philosophy professor to write “God is dead” on a piece of paper and affix his signature to it.
Wheaton, a Christian, refuses to do as the professor ordered. So the professor challenges the student to defend his faith before the class — a challenge that Wheaton accepts, at the cost of alienating and losing his girl friend.
Here is a real-life “God’s Not Dead” at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida.
A student enrolled in a humanities course at Polk State College received four consecutive “zero” grades for disagreeing with her atheist professor’s anti-Christian stance.
16-year-old Grace Lewis is a high school student who took an Introduction to Humanities course at Polk State from Professor Lance “L. J.” Russum, through the Florida Virtual School Full Time program.
Lewis says that at the beginning of the course, Russum declared that all religions are fictitious and are products of the “human imagination.” By week four, Russum’s essay assignments became increasingly opinionated, with questions like “Why did Christianity, and its male gods [sic], seek to silence…women?” In another assignment, Russum referred to “Hercules, Apollo and Jesus” on equal footing as “myths.”
Although Lewis has a 3.9 grade point average, she was given “zero” grades on four essay exams because she did not agree with Russum who opined that Michelangelo’s sculptures and paintings communicated that “same-sex relationship is not a sin,” and that Christianity is “the most violent forms of religion the world has ever seen.”
Lewis sought the assistance of Liberty Counsel, a non-profit law firm dedicated to “restoring the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.”
Liberty Counsel filed a complaint with Polk State College that Russum had discriminated against Lewis by failing her on assignments because of her Christian beliefs and his “pervasive, anti-Christian bias.” Russum also “assaults the sensibilities” of his students by including a close-up image of the penis on Michelangelo’s David and by highlighting other phallic and potentially homoerotic symbols in Renaissance art. “Russum then uses Michelangelo as [a] … stand-in for his own beliefs about homosexuality, stating that ‘in the 16th century, Michelangelo is claiming that being in a same-sex relationship is NOT A SIN and WILL NOT keep someone out of heaven’,” Liberty wrote.
Liberty says that Russum has “forfeited his academic integrity” and should be fired.
The college administration doubled down and defends Professor Russum.
This is the response to Liberty Counsel’s complaint by attorneys Donald H. Wilson and W.A. “Drew” Crawford of law firm Boswell & Dunlap in Bartow, Florida, which represents Polk State College:
[T]he College affirmatively asserts that your allegation of discrimination is baseless, without merit, and absolutely lacking any factual support. The overall fallacy of your position rests singly on the premise that that an instructor should not require a student to consider, discuss or present arguments that are contrary to his/her personal beliefs. Your only substantive allegation with a connection to the college is that the professor allegedly discriminated against your student when he gave her zeroes on four essay assignments…. Your entire letter, which is based upon this hollow and indefensible allegation, legally fails to establish any claim against either the college or its employee.”
In their letter in defense of the college and Russum, Wilson and Crawford also argue that many of the issues Liberty Counsel raised “are clearly intended to be inflammatory, but none of which are evidence of religious discrimination.”
Polk State College also defends Professor Russum’s grading, saying that while Lewis was a strong student when she was on task, she failed entirely to address the question at hand in 4 of 15 essay assignments that together counted for 40% of the class grade (a final assignment counted for 60%). Polk State says that “several other faculty members” independently came to the same conclusion about Lewis’ performance.
Despite Lewis receiving “zero” for 40% of the class grade, she received a final grade of “A” for the class, on the basis of which the College’s attorneys claim that Grace has not suffered any discrimination.
But Kristin Lewis, Grace’s mother, maintains that her daughter “only received that grade after we spoke with the Dean and obtained the support of Liberty Counsel…. Her final paper was excellent; but so were the four essays that received zeros. Why the turn around? Working behind the scenes to give Grace an ‘A’ to make us go away is not bringing resolution to our concerns and it does not insure that this same thing will not happen to other Polk State students in the future.”
According to Liberty Counsel, Professor Russum wrote in an email that Adolf Hitler “wasn’t violent enough.”
On the professor’s Facebook page that has since been deleted after Liberty Counsel intervened on Grace Lewis’ behalf, Russum had posted a photo of Jesus with his middle finger raised in an obscene gesture (screen shot below), with the remark, “I finally have the answer to WWJD.”