A University of Connecticut professor went on a wild tirade on the Storrs campus Tuesday, claiming he came from an ape as he confronted a Christian gospel presentation that included discussion on evolution.
As Christian News Network reported, anthropology professor James Boster spent more than two hours trying to draw students away from Christian evangelists who were preaching outdoors and distributing literature on campus.
Christian evangelist Don Karns of Hampton, Virginia, said Boster approached him as he was holding a sign about evolution, mocked him, and then became confrontational.
“He asked me if I had accepted Darwin as my lord and savior,” Karns said. “He was very agitated, very demonstrative… it was very unbecoming of a professor.”
Within minutes, Boster, who began teaching at UConn in 1997, also began to openly mock campus tour coordinator Scott Smith of Schoolmaster Ministries of Raleigh, North Carolina, as he preached.
“As I was pointing to Christ–I was talking about the sin nature–I said, ‘There’s probably some people out there–maybe even professors–who think they descended from monkeys,'” Smith stated. “[Boster] jumped off the ground and came running over and basically started screaming, ‘I did not come from a monkey! I came from an ape!'”
“He got about two inches from my nose,” Smith noted. “You could tell he was going to pop.”
Karns said that Boster then confronted him a second time, using profanity and getting in his face. Andrew Rappaport of Striving for Eternity Ministries in Jackson, New Jersey, said he witnessed Boster present a speech in an attempt to agitate the students.
“He started to address the students as ‘My brothers and sisters of Darwin,'” Rappaport said.
“I want you to join me in saying, ‘Praise Darwin!'” Boster mocked, as students echoed his refrain. “Amen!” Boster proclaimed.
Boster then told students to “feel your spiritual kinship not just with other humans, but also with your fellow mammals.”
“We are all bonded together in that great spiritual web. The divine saturates nature the way that gravy saturates cornbread,” Boster said.
According to the report, as Rappaport began preaching, Boster became increasingly agitated and, at one point, began screaming in Polish.
“He literally got two inches from my face and started yelling at me that I was ignorant,” Rappaport said. “I start trying to transition to the gospel and he then tried to get the crowd to tell me to shut up.'”
“He was being rude. He was talking over me,” he continued. “He was yelling at me, and I tried to say, ‘Can we have a reasonable discussion?’… But he asked a question and then talked right over me.”
Rappaport said that though Boster claimed he was going to conduct “open-air Darwinism” on campus because of the preaching, he then pivoted and said he would be open to exchange emails for future discussion.
Christian News Network said that Boster, who earns $119,486 per year, could not be reached for comment.
On its blog, the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC) referred to Boster as a “devout secularist.” Regarding Boster’s conduct toward the evangelists, FIC wrote:
Regardless of who they were, this lack of respect toward dissenting views by staff on campus is surely the fruit of UCONN President Susan Herbst’s excessive vocal and public preaching against Football Assistant Coach Earnest [sic] Jones’ statement in January that “Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle.” Coach Jones later resigned.
I wonder if President Herbst will similarly condemn Professor Boster’s endorsement and advocacy of a particular philosophy on campus… which has clearly taken on a spiritual dimension, since he encouraged visitors to “accept Darwin” as their “Lord and Savior” and in his interaction with students intoned them to say “Amen” – and some did.
On Wednesday, the university released a statement, which read:
Everyone has the right to exercise free speech on our campuses. At the same time, we expect our faculty to act in a way that promotes civil discourse and to express themselves respectfully. The use of abusive language and a confrontational posture are inconsistent with UConn’s values.
In its blog FIC referred to an incident in February in which UConn football coach Ernest T. Jones resigned following controversy regarding his comments that “Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle.”
As the Hartford Courant reported, UConn president Herbst responded to Jones’s comment with a letter to the editor in the Courant in which she said:
…at public universities we value everyone in our community, and treat each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of who they are, what their background is, or what their beliefs may be. Every student, including student-athletes, must know they are accepted and welcomed at UConn. Always. Our staff should educate and guide students, to ensure they are well-prepared for life at UConn and beyond. But it should go without saying that our employees cannot appear to endorse or advocate for a particular religion or spiritual philosophy as part of their work at the university, or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field. Our athletic director and Coach Diaco agree wholeheartedly with me, and have made this clear to their staff.
Popular UConn championship women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma reflected on the Jones controversy. He told the Courant:
When I was in high school, we prayed before every game. And we prayed after every game. That’s part of the school you are at, part of the religious experience of going to a Catholic school. I get that. I did that. I was all in favor of it. And, if I coached at a Catholic high school right now, I’d be doing the same thing. But ever since I left high school, and ever since I have been a head coach, I don’t pay any mind to that stuff. We don’t pray in the locker room. We don’t pray in the hotel room, pregame or after a game. If you asked me the religion of my players, I would say I have no idea. I really don’t care. It’s none of my business. And I have tried to keep it that way.
Auriemma added, however, “But all of those people who had a heart attack over what was said by our [assistant football coach] should go to whatever church they belong to and ask for forgiveness.”