by Lauren | 1:03pm ET
A beloved Rutgers University shuttle bus driver claims he was fired from his job for praying for a disabled young woman in a wheelchair.
Speaking to Hannity.com, McNeil said that he was called into his bosses office and told that they had him on camera doing "a couple things wrong," including putting his hands on the head of a young woman in a wheelchair and praying that she would be healed. McNeil says he was told by his superior, "that's unacceptable we don't do that here."
In a statement from First Transit, the bus company that employed McNeil, spokeswoman Stephanie Creech, said, "First Transit has long appreciated Mr. McNeil’s rapport with the students he transports at Rutgers University. We respect both his religious beliefs and the many positive messages he shared with the students. We likewise respect the beliefs and practices of all the Rutgers Students who choose to interact with Mr. McNeil.... Unfortunately, a full internal review revealed that Mr. McNeil had failed to follow a critical safety protocol that was cause for immediate termination. When advised of his violation, Mr. McNeil chose to resign."
The "safety protocol" violation is due to the fact that when McNeil loaded the wheelchair onto the bus, he only tied down two wheels instead of all four. That, McNeil admits, was due to time constraints and he says he should have locked in all four wheels. When asked if he thinks that was the reason he was fired, McNeil insisted that the prayer was the problem, not the safety protocol.
According to an article posted last week in the Rutgers Newspaper, the Daily Targum, John Karakoglou, manager of transit services for the Rutgers University Department of Transportation Services, said McNeil was not fired. “I’m not sure, but I believe he had to resign to take care of other endeavors he wanted to do other things, I’m not sure. We definitely didn’t fire him," said Karakoglou.
According to a 2012 Rutgers University article, McNeil is a Navy veteran and retired Newark, NJ firefighter. He joined the Rutgers community as a bus driver in September of 2011 and became an instant hit with the students. McNeil offered words of encouragement and motivation to students and told the Rutgers newspaper, “I enjoy motivating students. It’s important to motivate people because it helps bridge the gap. Older people gave me encouraging words growing up, so I want to help people today [by giving them]."
On Monday, McNeil posted a video response posted to his Facebook fan page (which has over 7 thousand "likes"). The video was created by a Rutgers student production company called, TheRootofAllGood. The group says they strive to tell stories that prompt people to think and promote change. On creating the video, Jean Isaacs, 22-year-old senior at Rutgers and director of the production company said, "Here's a man who is beloved by the student body at Rutgers, and a genuine, great person. The least I could do was give him a platform for his voice to be heard."
Isaacs is not the only student who feels that way about McNeil. Students will be gathering today to create video messages to send to the driver. They also created a Change.org petition to bring McNeil back. So far the petition has garnered over 6 thousand signatures. Another student set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to send him a gift basket in time for Thanksgiving. The fundraising page for McNeil says, "Stan the LX bus driver 'resigned' (technically was fired) for praying over a girl in a wheelchair. He was known to be one of the coolest people on campus who genuinely cares about students and would always encourage students on the bus with motivational words such as "You all are champions!" He is truly one of the nicest people you will ever meet!"
When asked if he feels as though he was wrongly terminated, McNeil said he wasn't going to point any fingers, "God is in the midst of all of this."
To view one of McNeil's inspirational (in-transit) speeches, click here.