Dr. Kenneth Howell, the adjunct professor at the University of Illinois who was fired for teaching Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality in a class on Catholicism has been reinstated by the University. Here is the press release from the Alliance Defense Fund that represented Dr. Howell:
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana confirmed to Alliance Defense Fund attorneys Thursday that it will once again allow popular professor Dr. Kenneth Howell to teach on Catholicism after recently firing him for explaining the Roman Catholic Church’s position on human sexual behavior to members of his class.
ADF attorneys representing Howell sent a letter to university officials on July 12 explaining that the university’s actions violated his rights protected by the First Amendment and asked that he be reinstated.
“A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because certain ideas ‘offend’ an anonymous student. We greatly appreciate the university’s move to put Professor Howell back in the classroom, but we will be watching carefully to make sure that his academic freedom is protected throughout the university’s ongoing process,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French.
A letter from the University of Illinois Office of University Counsel admits no wrongdoing on the part of the university but states, “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.”
The letter then adds that a university committee will continue its investigation of Howell’s situation.
Howell, who had been teaching at the university since 2001, was relieved of his teaching duties based in part on an anonymous complaint sent via e-mail to university officials. The e-mail was sent by the friend of an anonymous student who claimed to be “offended” by a May 4 e-mail Howell sent to students elaborating on a class discussion concerning Catholic beliefs about sexual behavior.
The May 4 e-mail from Howell addressed a May 3 lecture in which he explained how the Roman Catholic Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and homosexual conduct. He accurately stated the church’s teaching that homosexual conduct is morally wrong, framing the issue in the context of natural moral law.
Well what we do we learn from this?
1. Fight: Too many Catholics do not respond when they are subject to outrageous treatment at the hands of anti-Catholic bigots. Dr. Howell and his supporters refused to supinely walk away from this situation.
2. Bigots fear public exposure: Once a furor was raised over this firing, the powers that be at the University of Illinois quickly caved. Suffering in silence is not an effective strategy in regard to people who attack Catholics for simply being Catholics.
3. Open season on Catholics: In academia Catholicism is as popular as a Chicago Bears fan at a Green Bay Packers rally. Dr. Howell is perhaps the first sign that Catholics simply are no longer going to continue to accept third rate citizen status at public institutions of higher learning.
4. Mass blog action: Quite a few Catholic blogs helped raise a storm of protest against the firing. That has an impact, a lesson to remember for the future.
Previous posts on Dr. Kenneth Howell: