POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A Christian student in Florida has obtained legal assistance after her humanities professor gave her four zeroes for refusing to conform to assignments that she believed to be anti-Christian indoctrination.
Grace Lewis, 16, (pictured) is a dual-enrolled student enrolled in a virtual school from home. She has been taking college courses from Polk State College since last fall and has a 3.9 grade point average.
However, Lewis recently was given four straight zeros in her humanities class by Professor Lance “L.J.” Russum for being unwilling to answer his assignments about Christianity in the way that he wanted—which she believed was antithetical to, and hostile to, the faith.
“[T]he questions assigned are not open-minded questions,” one of the assignments explained. “They instead are designed to lead course participants decisively to accept that Christianity is false and oppressive of women.”
Other assignments asked students to outline Protestant reformer Martin Luther’s work as a “humanist,” and other asserted that the sculptures and paintings of the Roman Catholic artist Michelangelo suggested that a “same-sex relationship is not a sin and will not keep someone out of Heaven.”
“What you must write about: 1. Luther as a humanist 2. Luther’s reformation as political. 3. How Luther embraces the peasants and then abandons them when it gets to difficult for him,” one paper read. “Describe how his reformation is a political act one that expands humanism and draws us away from the mythos that seeks to punish unbelief.”
“We have much to thank of humans like Michelangelo who took a sacred space, a temple to God, and made it a human space, a space where humanism can meet with God and discourse,” another assignment outlined. “Finally humanity and the gods are on equal footing and that is what the myths of Hercules, Apollo and Jesus are all about—the divine becoming human and human being divine.”
Because Lewis’ essays were unsatisfactory to Russum in that she could not agree with the material she was being taught, she was given zeroes. She then contacted her professor to express concern out of her belief that her faith was being targeted.
“This course in no way is a challenge to anyone religious ‘faith’ because it never addresses religion from the standpoint of faith, only from philosophical/political/historical perspectives,” Rossum responded. “What you hold as a faith system is your personal belief about the gods and goddesses.”
“When you write from a faith position your writing is contrary to the BCI (Basic Course Information Catalog),” he continued. “The BCI is what I am obligated to grade you on. Your answers make it impossible for me to grade when you refuse to follow the course objectives.”
Lewis’ parents also contacted Dean Donald Painter, who reviewed the matter but said that he found the assignments to be “appropriate based on the course description and learning outcomes.”
Lewis then contacted the Christian legal organization Liberty Counsel for assistance, which requested an investigation into Russum as well as an apology and an assurance that Christians will not be discriminated against in his class in the future.
But Polk State University is reportedly continuing to defend Russum. An attorney for the university states that other academic officials reviewed Lewis’ work and agreed that she was wrong in not going along with what being asked for in the assignments and instead defended her Christian beliefs.
“The overall fallacy of your position rests singly on the premise that an instructor should not require a student to consider, discuss or present arguments that are contrary to his/her personal beliefs,” a response to Liberty Counsel from the law firm, Boswell and Dunlap of Bartow reads. “Such a position shows apparent ignorance of long-standing academic practice.”
Liberty Counsel, however, believes that it is rather the university that is wrong in punishing Lewis for not conforming to anti-Christian ideas.
“She simply was being belittled because this person is a militant atheist intent on destroying her faith,” Staver told Fox & Friends on Thursday, adding that he believes Russum is “proselytizing militant atheism” in the classroom.
Photo: Fox & Friends