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Florida university under fire over "Jesus" classroom exercise

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MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida university has come under fire over a professor's controversial classroom assignment that asked his students to write "Jesus" on a sheet of paper and then to step on it.

The incident earlier this month at the Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, has prompted the school to issue an apology and led to a call from Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott for an investigation.

"I am deeply disappointed in the recent actions of Florida Atlantic University faculty that raises significant questions over students' rights and the lessons being taught in our classrooms," Scott wrote in a letter to the head of Florida's state university board on Tuesday.

The classroom exercise was conducted as part of a course on intercultural communication at the public university.

It called for students to write the words "Jesus" in big letters on a piece of paper, place it on the floor and then to step on the paper. Students were then asked to describe how they felt.

School officials said the instructor told students they could choose whether to participate in the exercise, which was based on an example in a study guide to a course textbook and intended to provoke a discussion of cultural symbols.

In a recent statement, Florida Atlantic University said it will no longer use the exercise after it sparked criticism from some students.

"It was insensitive and unacceptable. Based on the offensive nature of the exercise, we will not use it again and have issued an apology to the community," the statement said.

In his letter, Scott said he wanted more than just an apology from the school.

"The professor's lesson was offensive, and even intolerant, to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom," he wrote.

"I'm requesting a report of the incident, how it was handled and a statement of the university's policies to ensure this type of 'lesson' will not occur again," Scott added.

(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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