By Kathleen Gilbert

Updated 6:23pm EST

URBANA, Illinois, July 29, 2010 ( – Dr. Kenneth Howell, the professor barred from teaching after a student complained about his explanation of the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality, in a class on Catholicism, has been reinstated by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

News spread rapidly of the censure earlier this month of Dr. Howell, whose scheduled classes next fall had been cancelled based on one student’s complaint that an email from the professor to students in the class explaining how homosexuality is incompatible with the natural moral law amounted to “hate speech.”

The university was soon deluged with opposition from within UIUC and beyond. Even the school’s Atheists, Agnostics, & Freethinkers group expressed outrage at the professor’s silencing. Howell, who had taught “Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought” at the university’s Department of Religion since 2001, had also taught at the school’s diocesan-run Newman Center for 12 years.

According to a UIUC statement sent to, the school “will continue Kenneth Howell’s adjunct appointment for the fall semester, and has offered him the opportunity to teach Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism.”

However, the statement itself focuses on the school’s decision to pay the salary of instructors teaching Catholic studies courses. St. John’s Catholic Newman Center had previously funded the instructors.

“The university values its relationship with the Newman Center and plans to continue offering courses in Catholic studies,” stated the school. UIUC also indicated that a university committee would continue investigating the matter.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney who represented Howell in the case expressed cautious gratitude at the reversal. ADF had sent a letter to the University demanding that the school reverse the decision, or else face legal action.

“We are extremely pleased that the university has asked for Dr. Howell to return to the classroom,” ADF attorney David French told in an email Thursday afternoon, calling the move “a great victory for academic freedom, for Dr. Howell, and — crucially — for the students of the University of Illinois.”

“The university is continuing its committee proceedings related to Dr. Howell’s case, and we’ll be carefully monitoring these proceedings to make sure that his rights are protected now and in the future,” he said.