Daily Archives: January 20, 2012

Update on “Religious Bigotry in a University Classroom?”

A little over two years ago I published a post sharing comments made by an adjunct professor at Tarrant County Community College (Paul Derengowski) regarding his final exam for his World Religions class. He was highlighting something a student wrote in response to one of the questions. Here are that teacher’s comments:

As part of the Final Exam in World Religions I have all the students answer two short essay questions at the very end. 1. What did you enjoy most about the class? 2. What lesson did you learn that made, or will make, the greatest impact on your life?

One of my student wrote in answer to the second question:

Going to visit the Mormons taught me that there are many counterfeits out there to beware of and they all sound very good to try and draw you in or change your own philosophy. Trust in your faith and don’t be trusting of that in the world that has been derived from man alone.

Please note that all my students are required to visit two religions outside their comfort zone, and it is purely up to them where they go. They write a five-page paper on the experiences, and then get up in class and briefly discuss their findings. It is one aspect of the class that the students repeatedly tell me how much they appreciate and enjoy.

The student’s comments above are priceless. Why? Because she made the visit to the local Mormon meeting house on her own, long before we ever discussed Mormonism as a religion in class. In her words the Mormon church is (1) a counterfeit, and (2) a worldly religion derived from man alone. I couldn’t agree more.

The neat thing about teaching World Religions is not the pay, the long hours of preparation and study, but the lives that are changed for the better when I read comments like those above. They “get it” in a postmodern world of relativism, narcissism, and nihilism, all of which Mormonism espouses at different levels of thought. And because they “get it,” they won’t end up in a cult like Mormonism. Thank God for that!!

Btw, the jury came back with a unanimous decision that Mormonism was not an accurate representation of Christianity, and that after I placed the only Mormon in the class on the side attempting to prove that it was. Unfortunately, after the trial was over, the Mormon quit coming to class (not that she had a stellar attendance record anyway), and she’ll end up failing, sorry to say.

Several people in the field commented that this was entirely and completely inappropriate. I  shared in the comments section some responses from the teacher and a year later shared another post related to his bigotry.

It  has now come to my attention that Paul Derengowski recently resigned from his position at Tarrant County Community College as a direct result of his bigoted approach to teaching. Apparently two Muslim students who had had enough (one of whom commented on my blog) repeatedly interrupted his class during a lecture and one made threatening remarks that made Paul and several students quite uncomfortable. Both students left the class a couple minutes early. Paul filed a report with campus police, and several students also filed grievances. In the end, however, the students don’t appear to have suffered any disciplinary actions. One of them sent an email around linking to a bunch of Paul’s comments about Islam, Mormonism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses elsewhere on the internet, and the admin didn’t appreciate what they found there. You will find many different versions of the story from many different angles if you google the keywords of the story (often describing Paul as a victim of “Sharia Law”). A news report is here. Another report is here. Paul has posted a long letter on his own blog explaining his side of the story and his resignation. Read through it if you have the stomach, but note he suggests in one place that all mosques should be under 24-hour government surveillance and all Muslims should be profiled and immediately deported or executed for any crimes whatsoever, including spitting on the sidewalk (what if they were born in the US?). This is the tone that accompanies Paul wherever he goes. It simply defies logic that he does not consider himself bigoted in the least (although he defines a bigot only as someone who has dogmatically made up their mind without looking at the data).

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the actions of the students were completely and totally inappropriate, and the one who made the threat, if it did happen, should have been disciplined. There’s simply no call or excuse for continued interruptions or threats toward teachers or students. I disapprove of those actions unilaterally. They should have gone to an administrator. Having said that, Paul says they should have come to him with Quran in hand to prove to him he’s wrong. That illustrates how useless it would be to try to approach him directly about his teaching style or to at all reason with him. An outburst of some kind from students was inevitable. It appears the school did not take the action Paul wanted because it was made aware of Paul’s phenomenally bigoted approach to teaching about religions. They cancelled a class he was going to teach while they were investigating the matter and he felt they didn’t want him around anymore, so he resigned. He’s still angry and feels having his syllabus and approach left alone for three years indicates his syllabus and approach were perfectly legitimate, but that’s obviously because they just didn’t vet him very well or look at his syllabus. That’s the school’s fault, although they’ll probably shuffle the blame around.

I leave you with Paul’s parting words to the school administration:

To the TCC administration—Barbara Coan, Josue Munoz, and Rusty Fox—who mishandled this case terribly, what a disappointment you have been.  You all were given the opportunity to serve God, but chose to serve mammon instead.  And by choosing to protect your bellies, you jeopardized, and will continue to jeopardize, every other student and employee associated with TCC.  In fact, the precedent you set by failing to act appropriately in quashing this terroristic act of jihad by these two Muslim students may cost someone his/her life someday.  God forbid if that happens.  Nevertheless, if it does, you won’t have to look far to see the bloodletting, because it will already be on your hands.  But, then again, maybe it will be your head they will want next, so it won’t matter then, just like it doesn’t matter to you now.  You will have your reward and so will they.