NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A bus driver for a public university in New Jersey is asserting that he was fired for laying hands on and praying for a handicapped woman that rode his bus.
Stanley McNeil was reported to be well-liked among the students at Rutgers University as he was known for delivering motivational speeches to those who rode his bus. He had worked for First Transit for two years, which contracts with the university to provide transportation.
But recently, McNeil said that he was let go by First Transit for praying for a woman who was confined to a wheelchair.
“I prayed for the lady—put my hands on her and prayed,” he said in an online video. “And they (First Transit) said, ‘We don’t want you to do that.’ They said, ‘We don’t need your services anymore because we don’t do that here.'”
“I wanted to say, ‘You tell that to all the other students that God healed, that I had prayed for and they got healed,'” McNeil continued. “God healed them.”
He said that he had been told in the past to keep religion out of his job.
“[They told me], ‘You can motivate the students, but don’t talk about God,'” McNeil stated. “And then the students started coming to me talking about, ‘I need prayer. I need prayer for this. My family is going through some problems.’ [So], I said, ‘I’m going to pray.'”
He explained that he told his employer that he would not end his practice of prayer on the bus.
“I said, ‘I don’t regret none of it. This is who I am. I ain’t going to back down from what happened,'” McNeil recalled. “They think I’m going to compromise, [but] … I’m all about God, brother. I ain’t compromising one bit.”
Therefore, he states that he was let go when it was discovered that he had laid hands on and prayed for a handicapped woman on the bus.
“They told me that they didn’t want to put on my record that they would fire me, so they said that they would put on there that I resigned,” McNeil explained in the video that he recorded for the students. “So, I said okay, and that was it. I had no intentions of leaving the job.”
But First Transit released a statement this week that provided a different story.
“First Transit has long appreciated Mr. McNeil’s rapport with the students he transports at Rutgers University,” the company wrote. “We respect both his religious beliefs and the many positive messages he shared with the students. We likewise respect the beliefs and practices of all the Rutgers Students who choose to interact with Mr. McNeil.”
Officials stated that McNeil resigned after being confronted about not using enough belts to strap in the woman’s wheelchair.
“This case is about safety, which is a core value of First Transit. All of our vehicle operators are instructed, ‘If it can’t be done safely, don’t do it,'” First Transit asserted. “Unfortunately, a full internal review revealed that Mr. McNeil had failed to follow a critical safety protocol that was cause for immediate termination. When advised of his violation, Mr. McNeil chose to resign.”
John Karakoglou, manager of transit systems for the Rutgers University Department of Transportation Services, had an even different story, although he stated that he wasn’t certain of what had occurred.
“I’m not sure, but I believe he had to resign to take care of other endeavors—he wanted to do other things,” he told the Daily Targum. “I’m not sure. We definitely didn’t fire him.”
An online petition has now been launched in an effort to have McNeil reinstated on his route. It already has over 6,000 signatures to date.
“In a world of increasing tolerance and Rutgers claiming to be a place for everyone, it is wrong that a praying man of God loses his job for such an archaic, bigoted and intolerant reason,” one signee wrote. “This sets religious tolerance back 1,000 years.”
“I don’t believe in God, but I believe in good intentions,” another stated. “You can use the sorry excuse of saying, ‘You cannot push the existence of God on a community,’ but you can’t push the nonexistence of God either. Don’t just sign a petition to bring Stan back, but also sign a petition to fire his boss.”
“One of the purist people I’ve ever met on my life. He made my day so many times,” commented a third signee. “The political wheel is spinning out of control. Bring Stan back.”