By Kathleen Gilbert
URBANA, Illinois, July 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Catholic professor who was barred from teaching after he explained Catholic teaching on homosexuality to the students in a class on Catholicism, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has defended the decision by saying that the professor was not actually "fired" - he's just not allowed to teach any more classes.
UIUC administration has reportedly been deluged with outraged emails and phone calls after news broke that Dr. Kenneth Howell was abruptly disallowed to teach after a student complained about an e-mail in which Howell outlined the arguments for how homosexual behavior is contrary to natural moral law - words the student deemed "hate speech." The remarks were made in the context of an email to students in a class on Catholicism; Howell had taught classes on Catholicism at the school and its Catholic Newman Center for several years.
After lawyers with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) notified university officials that they were launching legal action, UIUC deputy counsel Steven Veazie responded that, because Howell is still a member of the faculty, there are no grounds for litigation, according to CNSNews.
While admitting that the professor's teaching assignment is "as yet undetermined pending a review of this matter," Veazie said that because Howell's legal rights have not been violated, there is “no case or controversy upon which legal action would be warranted at this time.”
A form e-mail from UIUC President Michael Hogan that is being sent in response to the controversy states that "misinformation" that Howell has been fired ought to be "corrected."
"Prof. Howell has not been dismissed from the University, as misreported on the Internet and by several media outlets," writes Hogan. "He continues to hold his appointment as an adjunct professor. No decision has been made regarding the appointment of an instructor for the course Prof. Howell previously taught in the Fall semester; and no decision will be made until the review is complete."
ADF attorneys responded that such a distinction was pointless.
“While he continues to hold his appointment as adjunct professor, that title is virtually meaningless if he has no classes to teach,” wrote ADF attorney David Hacker in a letter to UIUC.
The attorney also expressed suspicion that the promised "review" of Howell's censure could be skewed by prejudice among UIUC administration: according to correspondence published by the Champaign News-Gazette, Ann Mester, associate dean for UIUC's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, told the head of UIUC's Religion Department that she believed Howell's emails "violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."
Howell's email, which notes that "to judge an action wrong is not to condemn a person," states that, "Sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY."
"Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. ... So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act."
Hacker assured the school that the litigation would proceed if Howell had not secured permission to teach his regular courses for the Fall 2010 semester by July 27.
An online petition supporting Dr. Howell and launched by TFP (Tradition, Family, Property) Student Action has reached over 8,000 signatories so far.
Click here to visit the Save Dr. Ken fan page on Facebook.
Michael J. Hogan, President, UIUC
Robert A. Easter, Chancellor