Professor bullies, fails student for Christian beliefs

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

LAKELAND, Fla. (Christian Examiner) -- The family of a sixteen-year-old high school student dual-enrolled at Polk State College is taking legal action against an anti-Christian humanities professor with a bent to punish students who do not conform to his hostile world views.

Throughout the ongoing spring 2015 semester, Professor Lance "L.J." Russum assigned a grade of four zero's to the student enrolled at Polk through the Florida Virtual School program and referred to as "G.L" to protect the minor's privacy.

According to a May 1 letter to the school's dean issued by the Florida-based non-profit Liberty Counsel, "G.L" and her parents reached out to Dean Donald Painter in regards to various assignments with biased essay questions the student attempted to answer academically without conceding agreement to Russum's personal worldview which deemed "Christianity false, violent, or oppressive to women."

Included in the essay questions G.L challenges were "Why did Christianity, and its male gods, want to silence these women?" and "From the article on the nuns what makes their defiance of male dominance so important?"

When the girl's parents received notice from Painter that he found "nothing derogatory or defamatory toward any group of people," the family took their concerns to the Liberty Counsel and according to a press release the organization is now demanding a full review of Russum's class behavior and course content and assurances that future courses taught by the professor remain free of his personal bias.

"Mr. Russum should not be permitted to use his position to punish students who do not conform to his anti-Christian views," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "G.L.'s parents asked Polk State College to review this matter, but it refused, so Liberty Counsel is stepping in to help."

Though Russum's syllabus states that students are not obligated to agree with him and his course materials, his claims of deliberate intention to "occupy the space of 'Devil's Advocate' for the purpose of lively discussion," seem false when juxtaposed to the personal biases he reflects in his online persona, according to the Liberty Counsel.

"No student should be subjected to such outrageous bias and outright hostility to their values by a professor. Being a professor is not open season to belittle and punish students merely because they do not subscribe to the professor's radical opinions," Staver added.

As an example of Russum's personal hostility toward Christianity, the letter references photos to the professor's Facebook profile which include images of Fidel Castro and Jesus making an obscene gesture.

The values of Marxism, Atheism, Feminism and homosexuality are among the ideas the Liberty Counsel found Russum attempting to foist on students across the blurred lines of his humanities curriculum and personal views. 

A review of the syllabus by the legal non-profit organization shows Russum's teachings to include claims that all religion comes from "human imagination" refers to Christianity as a "mythos" and even aims to deconstruct and discredit the Bible.

As additional support to the claim that Russum holds these ideas as his personal beliefs, the Liberty Counsel's letter points to Russum's college email signature which 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."

Beyond ensuring Russum ceases his anti-Christian biases in the classroom the Lewis family seeks an appropriate grading of the student's assignments by a different professor and a written apology.

"Students have the right to utilize their faiths in an academically responsive discussion to various questions or topics. If it's a matter of opinion or religious beliefs and a persons opinion's or religious beliefs has a bearing on their answer to the question then you can't punish them for expressing that in a respectful and academically responsive manner," Richard Mast, a Liberty Counsel lawyers told Christian Examiner.

"What we have here is an extensively public school being used as a vehicle to pass on the values Marxism, homosexuality and feminism," Mast said. "If this were the shoe on the other foot, and a Christian teacher were saying that you have to repent and trust in Jesus in order to pass this class, at a public school under current jurisprudence they would be fired, no mistake."

The school's dean was given until Friday to respond to Liberty Counsel's request for action.