This week it’s been all PCUSA, all the time. But just to show that the world has no problem coming up with bizarre news all on its own, we turn to the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette:
An adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism at the University of Illinois has lost his teaching job there, and he claims it is a violation of his academic freedom.
Kenneth Howell was told after the spring semester ended that he would no longer be teaching in the UI’s Department of Religion. The decision came after a student complained about a discussion of homosexuality in the class in which Howell taught that the Catholic Church believes homosexual acts are morally wrong.
One of his lectures in the introductory class on Catholicism focuses on the application of natural law theory to a social issue. In early May, Howell wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students, in preparation for an exam, in which he discusses how the theory of utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts.
“Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY,” he wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The News-Gazette. “In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.”
He went on to write there has been a disassociation of sexual activity from morality and procreation, in contradiction of Natural Moral Theory.
I read the email, and it is exactly what you’d expect–a professor explaining ideas with which his students almost certainly have little familiarity. He doesn’t say they have to agree with him about homosexuality, but that they needed to be able to come to grips with the different ways that utilitarianism and natural law theory deal with the issue. But that doesn’t mean the PC police, which is what some college students have appointed themselves, won’t complain:
The student complaint came in a May 13 e-mail to Robert McKim, head of the religion department. The author of the e-mail said he was writing on behalf of a friend – a student in Howell’s class, who wanted to remain anonymous. The e-mail complained about Howell’s statements about homosexuality, which the student called “hate speech.”
This is specifically what the student wrote:
This past semester, a friend of mine took RLST 127: Introduction to Catholicism. Throughout the semester, he would consistently tell me how the teacher, who I believe is a priest at the Newman Center, would preach (not teach) his ideology to the class. Many times, my friend (whom I wish to remain anonymous) said the instructor would say things that were inflammatory and downright insensitive to those who were not of the Catholic faith–it should be noted that my friend and I were both brought up Catholic. Anyways, my friend informed me that things got especially provocative when discussing homosexuality. He sent me the following e-mail, which I believe you will agree is downright absurd once you read it.
I am in no way a gay rights activist, but allowing this hate speech at a public university is entirely unacceptable. It sickens me to know that hard-working Illinoisans are funding the salary of a man who does nothing but try to indoctrinate students and perpetuate stereotypes. Once again, this is a public university and should thus have no religious affiliation. Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one’s worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation.
So let me get this straight: a student who is not in this professor’s class writes on behalf of an anonymous friend, and expresses vehement opinions about a class that he hasn’t taken. He completely misunderstands the email to which he objects, possibly because he wasn’t in the class and therefore has no context on which to judge it except the displeasure of his anonymous friend (for instance, he obviously hasn’t got a clue that natural law is the foundation of Catholic moral teaching). He complains because the professor, in teaching a class on Catholicism, presents the Catholic view on a moral issue. He also does the usual PC two-step of assuming that because one believes that homosexual behavior is contrary to natural law, he must therefore “ostracize” gay people and be engaged in “hate speech” (as ridiculous a use of that term as I’ve ever heard).
And what is the response of the university to this thuggish and intellectually childish attack on academic freedom?
They fire the professor, and in the process make an unmistakable statement about that same freedom:
In a series of e-mail exchanges between McKim and UI administrators about how to proceed regarding Howell’s teaching and his appointment as an adjunct professor, McKim states he will send a note to Howell’s students and others who were forwarded his e-mail to students, “disassociating our department, College, and university from the view expressed therein.”
In another e-mail, Ann Mester, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wrote that she believes “the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us.”
Again, read Howell’s email, and compare it to Mester’s reaction to it. The message her nonsense sends is absolutely clear: every professor has the freedom to believe and teach anything he or she wants to, as long it it agrees with the reigning leftist orthodoxy.
(Via Stand Firm.)