University of Illinois Professor is Reinstated

“A professor who was recently fired for explaining the Catholic teaching on homosexuality will be reinstated, according to the University of Illinois. Dr. Kenneth Howell’s position at the school was terminated at the end of the Spring Semester this year after teaching in a class on Catholicism that the Church believes homosexual behavior violates natural law.

A Thursday letter from the University of Illinois Office of University Counsel told Howell’s lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) that “The School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics will be contacting Dr. Howell to offer him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism, on a visiting instructional appointment at the University of Illinois, for the fall 2010 semester. Dr. Howell will be appointed and paid by the University for this adjunct teaching assignment.”

Howell had been teaching at the university since 2001 and consistently gained high approval ratings on student evaluations. In a class on Catholicism last spring, he followed up a classroom discussion with an e-mail contrasting the ways in which utilitarianism and natural law theory would each determine the morality of homosexual conduct.

A student complained that Howell’s words were “hate speech” in an e-mail to the head of the department, Dr. Robert McKim. Howell was called into McKim’s office at the end of the semester and told that he would no longer be allowed to teach for the university because his e-mail had “violate[d] university standards of inclusivity.”

In Howell’s defense, the ADF declared that the First Amendment exists to keep controversial ideas from being suppressed. “A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because certain ideas ‘offend’ an anonymous student,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French.” – “Fired Catholic Professor Reinstated at University of Illinois”, Catholic News Agency

This is a follow up posting to one I had previously made earlier this month titled, University of Illinois Professor May Be Reinstated. I found the update on this story on Catholic News Agency, and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at the outcome of this incident. While I fully support the professor’s reinstatement, I did not think it would happen just because of how ridiculous the world has become these days. I was stunned to hear the stupidity of this poor professor’s firing, and I am extremely happy to share the news of his reinstatement with you all.

University of Illinois Professor May Be Reinstated

This is a follow-up post to one made earlier this week called, Professor Fired for Teaching Catholic Views in a Catholicism Class. An University of Illinois professor was let go from his post for teaching the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality, which is ridiculous when you think about what class it was in. The ADF sent a letter to the university this week, and if they do not respond they could really be opening themselves up to a big court case with unnecessary, negative publicity. Hopefully they come to their senses and admit their mistake. Apparently this professor has been very well liked all over campus and I’m sure most students and faculty would like to see him reinstated. The excerpts below are from Catholic News Agency.

“In a letter sent Monday to the University of Illinois, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) called for the immediate reinstatement of Dr. Kenneth Howell, a professor who was fired for explaining in a class on Catholicism that the Church teaches homosexual behavior violates natural law. If the university does not reply to the letter by July 16, the legal fund said it will advise the professor to file a lawsuit.

In his letter, Barham noted that Dr. Howell has taught in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois since 2001, and that he has consistently earned excellent marks on his student evaluations.

Throughout the semester, Barham underscored, Dr. Howell emphasized to his class that they did not need to agree with Catholic thought, but simply needed to understand and analyze it to succeed in the class.

In a legal analysis of the situation, Barham explained that “public university professors retain free speech and academic freedom rights in the classroom and on campus.”

Looking at legal precedent, Barham noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Illinois, has stated that “the First Amendment protects the right of faculty members to engage in academic debates, pursuits, and inquiries.” Federal courts across the country have agreed with this statement, he said.

“These clearly established First Amendment principles easily encompass Dr. Howell’s lectures and e-mail,” Barham stated. “In a class on Catholic thought, he explained Catholic teaching on sexual morality and answered students’ questions and responded to their objections.”

“According to decades of Supreme Court precedent, the University simply cannot relieve Dr. Howell of his teaching post based on how third parties respond to his speech,” Barham said. “For decades, the Supreme Court has consistently held that university campuses are ‘not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment.’”

To read the entire article, click here.