It's difficult to be shocked by much of anything that comes out of academia these days. With political correctness, feminist inclusivism, and Marxist and post-Marxist indoctrination the order of the day in higher education, the muzzle on authentic academic freedom has long been firmly fastened. Yet, this summer, Catholics were doing a lot of head-scratching over the firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell, adjunct professor of Catholic studies at the University of Illinois. Howell, who's been teaching an Introduction to Catholicism course in the university's religion department since 2001, was sacked at the end of the spring semester after being denounced by an anonymous student who accused Howell of "hate speech."
Howell's academic crime? The Catholic studies professor explained Catholic moral teaching on human sexuality in a lecture about Catholic moral teaching.
A thin-skinned student apparently fell to pieces when Howell touched on the issue of homosexual acts. The student's apoplexy induced him to enlist a fellow "heterosexual male" student who wasn't even in the class to fire off a whiny e-mail to the director of the LGBT Resource Center and the founder of the "queer studies" major among others. In his denunciation, the second-hand student accused Howell of saying "things that were inflammatory and downright insensitive to those who were not of the Catholic faith" particularly when discussing homosexuality, the true reason for the overwrought kerfuffle. "Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," the student wrote. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another."
Along with his denunciation, the student forwarded what he described as a "downright absurd" e-mail Dr. Howell had written to his students, supposedly submitted as hard evidence of the professor's "inflammatory" approach. The anonymous "heterosexual male" student concluded his rant with this hackneyed flourish: "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."
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