Texas university backtracks on ‘God bless you’ ban

A professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was forced to remove an injunction against saying “God bless you” from a course syllabus in the face of student outrage.

The syllabus, images of which went viral on social media last week, instructed students to “Please refrain from saying, 'God bless you' during the classes and exams,” according to CBS affiliate KGBT.

The report did not identify the professor, though references to “data sets” in the syllabus image suggest the course may have been related to statistics.

Students interviewed by KGBT were divided in their opinions, with some calling the rule a violation of religious freedom while others wondered why the issue was generating so much attention.

“I honestly wouldn't have a problem with it,” said Aaron Bravo, a UTRGV student. “It shouldn't really be a problem, because it's the teacher's classrooms.”

Fellow student Marcos Villarreal disagreed, however, saying "It's kind of ridiculous, First Amendment, freedom of religion … it's there. We shouldn't have to block that out of school.”

The statement was removed from the syllabus after university officials contacted the professor about it, but a statement issued by UTRGV sought to defend the professor’s actions, saying the offending provision was not intended to restrict students’ freedoms, but merely to combat potential classroom distractions.

“The professor's syllabus sought to identify examples of potentially disruptive behavior the professor believed could hinder the classroom learning environment, including use of cellphones,” the school explained. “The intent was not to limit the religious freedoms of UTRGV students, but to avoid unsolicited comments that might distract others.”

Nonetheless, the incident seems to have marred the school’s first semester of full operation following its creation in 2013 through the merger of the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American.

“Overall, it's still there … It's all over online,” Villarreal noted. “No matter what anyone does to take it offline, it's always going to be there."

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete