Professor Fired For Teaching Catholic Doctrine On Homosexuality Is Reinstated
A university professor who was fired over a complaint that he engaged in hate speech in his explanation of Catholic church doctrine on homosexuality, will now be reinstated to his position.
Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign who taught, “Introduction to Catholicism”, was dismissed earlier this month after teaching his students that, according to “Natural Moral Law,” acts of sexual intimacy between persons of the same sex is wrong.
The firing of the professor, who had been teaching at the university since 2001, was a result of a complaint made by a student who was not in professor Howell’s class. In the complaint, the student said, “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.”
The complaint followed an email that Howell sent to his students in which he discussed “natural moral law” and homosexuality.
“Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY,” wrote Dr, Howell, according to the News-Gazette. “In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.”
The student’s email sent to an official with the university complained that Howell’s comments were unfounded and should be silenced.
“Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing,” read the email. “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.”
Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal defense group which is representing Howell said the university had no right to restrict the professor’s speech simply because a student disagreed with his position.
“A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because some students find that speech ’offensive,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “Professors have the freedom to challenge students and to educate them by exposing them to different views.”
ADF attorneys sent a letter to university officials on July 12 explaining that the university’s actions violated their client’s First Amendment protected rights and asked that he be immediately reinstated.
A response letter from the university admits no wrongdoing on the part of the institution 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.
ADF says that they are pleased with the decision to reinstate Dr. Howell, but noted they want to ensure the university is committed to the principle of academic freedom and Constitutional rights.
“We greatly appreciate the university’s move to put Professor Howell back in the classroom,” said French, “but we will be watching carefully to make sure that his academic freedom is protected throughout the university’s ongoing process.”
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