Free Speech Means You Think Like Me

I love searching other blogs, and I stumbled across this little tidbit over at American Papist and Catholic Vote :

Fired for being Faithful: Catholic teacher dismissed over homosexuality discussion

And yes, I wrote a letter. See below. One the one hand, I’m incensed as a Catholic that a fellow Catholic is being fired and ostracized for doing and saying something very Catholic. On the other hand, this is yet another crime against common sense!

Let’s see where the idiot meter falls:

1) Hire a Catholic Professor.

2) Have him teach “Introduction to Catholicism”.

3) Have students come to the class.

4) Have one inane student never even go to the class, yet muster up the huevones (that’s balls, for non-Spanish speakers) to whine to the oh-so-intelligent powers that be in a poorly written letter (the little bugger couldn’t be bothered to write out the word “Professor” instead choosing to write “prof”).

Now, its like a choose your own adventure. Do you realize that the little whiner, who hasn’t gone to the class and is missing the entire point of the email is just a whiner? Or do you cave into pressure, fire a professor over his beliefs and try to call it standing up for free speech?

Well, these are the days of the liberal thinking universities, so of course its not a gigantic case of cognitive dissonance to fire someone for their beliefs when they do not coincide with yours?

You know, I just don’t get it. I have taken classes where I knew that I would be taught a bunch of things I wouldn’t agree with. Take Environmental Science, for example. The prof spent her time expounding on the radical dangers of overpopulation, which is a crappy crappy myth, but I knew it going in. I didn’t try to get her fired, although she was working at a supposedly Catholic institution.

I want to say that similar thing haven’t happened at my institution, but I’ve known people who basically disappeared… because of their faith.

So much for free speech. Seriously…

If you don’t like Catholic thoughts, if you don’t like Catholic beliefs, if you think we’re all a bunch of bigots, why do you bother hiring us in the first place to teach those beliefs you don’t like?

Here’s the letter:

To Whom It May Concern,

I have read both the e-mail and the complaint sent by the student via a news site through the internet, and I am perplexed.

A Catholic professor, teaching a class on Catholic theology, intelligently debates a Catholic idea, and a student who is not even a part of his class complains, misses the entire point of the email that was sent, and the reaction of Illinois is to fire the professor?

Furthermore, the religious center has also slammed the door on this man?

Even further, this is being done in the name of free speech?

I had thought that perhaps free speech meant being able, especially in classes that purport to teach something of a particular faith or discipline, to discuss any view- whether it is popular or not.

Was not the idea behind a liberal arts university to promote questioning of ideas? Doctor Kenneth Howell has apparently hit a nerve and diverged from the opinion of one student, or perhaps an entire university, and the response is not reasoned debate.

No, instead of reasoned debate, he is blackballed and fired.

Would the same have been done to an Orthodox Jewish professor teaching in a class on Judaism that Judaism is handed down through the mother’s side, and therefore there should be separate Jewish schools for those who are not considered Jewish by birth? And there happened to be a Reformed Jew in class who was a convert and not Jewish by birth who would be offended at this and told some random friend about it, who then complained, would your university have fired the Jewish professor for spewing “hate speech”?

Would the same have been done to an Atheist professor teaching a class on Christopher Hitchens that religion is equal to child abuse, or that all those who believe in a god or gods are delusional?

Is it only hate speech when a Catholic says it, or is it just hate speech when anyone exercises their right to think freely and to consider the implications of the nature of homosexuality publicly?

Perhaps you should ask that you “not seek windows into men’s souls”. Perhaps, if you’re going to have a class on religion, that will be discussing controversial topics, you should realize that the particular religion that is studied might have a different view.

By the way, for the woefully misinformed “Catholic” student who wrote that, “Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another” it should be noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church: read, what is actually believed by the faithful of the Catholic Church says:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (Emphasis added)

I wonder where the good professor found such hateful language? Gee…

But, I guess in a university that engages in a “marketplace of ideas” and “independent thought” only has room for those who think exactly like the society surrounding the university.

After all, the only open minded people are those who think exactly like me. 2+2=5.

This is going on my blog, and it will be publicized,

– A Disgusted College Student

Here is the letter the prof wrote AFTER he had been sacked, please read the information contained in the link wayyyy above, as that will lead to the email and the complaint sent by the student:

  • Dear Friend:

    I write this short narrative to explain why I am no longer teaching at the University of Illinois and am not employed by the Diocese of Peoria as of 30 June 2010. First, a little background.

    I came to Champaign-Urbana in August of 1998 to be employed by the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center as a teacher in the courses of the Catholic faith that were then taught through the Center. For seven years I enjoyed a working relationship with Monsignor Stuart W. Swetland, the Director of the Center, who taught alongside me in that program. In 2000, Monsignor Swetland negotiated an agreement with the Department of Religion in which he and I would be adjunct professors in the department and would teach courses on Catholicism. We simultaneously established the Institute of Catholic Thought of which I became the Director and Senior Fellow. The purpose of the Institute was to promote the intellectual heritage of the western world in which Catholicism played such an integral role.

    Since the Fall of 2001, I have been regularly teaching two courses in the Department of Religion. Since Monsignor Swetland’s departure in May of 2006, I have taught the equivalent of a full-time professor every semester, sometimes even more. This past semester (Spring 2010) something occurred which changed an otherwise idyllic academic life. One of the courses I have taught since 2001 has been “Introduction to Catholicism.” I think that it is fair to say that many students at the University of Illinois have benefited greatly from this and other teaching I have done. Every semester in that “Introduction” class, I gave two lectures dealing with Catholic Moral positions. One was an explanation of Natural Moral Law as affirmed by the Church. The second was designed as an application of Natural Law Theory to a disputed issue in our society. Most of those semesters, my chosen topic was the moral status of homosexual acts. I would happy to explain more fully the Catholic Church’s position on this matter but, for the sake of brevity, I can summarize it as follows. A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong. This is what I taught in my class.

    This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might have disagreed with the Church’s position but they did so respectfully and without incident. This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them an email contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we take utilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.

    After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairman of the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told that someone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent to administrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. I was told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.

    Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent that my days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just to ask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class I regularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I also avered that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. This made no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.

    I then consulted with our Diocesan lawyer, Mrs. Patricia Gibson, to see if the St. John’s Newman Center could sue the university for breach of contract. Mrs. Gibson, kind in spirit and articulate as regards the law, told me that unfortunately the university had made very careful provisions to protect itself and so would not be liable in a law suit. I am still consulting with other lawyers about possible legal action on the grounds of the first amendment.

    Then Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, the current Director of the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and my superior, informed me that the Center would not be able to continue employing me since there was no longer any teaching for me to do. I then reiterated what I had mentioned to him the day before. I suggested that we work together to have courses on Catholicism taught at the Newman Center that could be accredited by a Catholic university and that could be transferred into the University of Illinois for credit. In this way, the students whom we had been called to serve could continue to be instructed in the Catholic Faith. I told him in fact that I had once had conversations with professors in Catholic universities who were willing to make such arrangements. Monsignor Ketcham said that he had no interest in such a plan.

    Thus, after more than sixty years, students at the University of Illinois will have no classes on Catholicism available to them. If the Department of Religion continues to offer the courses I taught, I have no idea how accurately Catholicism will be represented. I know this subject well enough to say it can be easily distorted. I have tried in this document to portray in a straightforward manner what happened. I also am preparing another document giving my own interpretation of all these events. If you are interested in that, or you just want to be informed as things progress, please contact me by email:

    I look back at the twelve years I have spent in this position with memories of wonderful times with my students and friends with whom I have labored. It has been a time of great growth and joy. I thank God from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know Him who holds it. He is faithful and can be trusted.


    Kenneth J. Howell”


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One response to “Free Speech Means You Think Like Me

  1. Pingback: Let the Blogosphere Ring with Joy! I guess…yay? « Katoriku Rant

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