When a professor at Florida Atlantic University asked students to stomp on the name of “Jesus” written on a piece of paper, a Mormon student objected. Although the university first threatened to sanction the student, in the face of widespread criticism the university relented and apologized for the exercise. (For details, see Todd Starnes’s report for Fox.)

Surely there is something very wrong with this assignment. But what exactly is the problem with it? Some might argue that, hey, it’s just a piece of paper with ink patterns on it. So what if the name “Jesus” is written on the paper? That name also refers to a large number of people living in Latin America. Would we be offended if “Bob” were written on the paper? What’s the big deal?

To zero in on what’s the big deal, consider the language of the assignment:

Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture. . . .

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