Tuesday July 13, 2010

U. of IL to ‘Review’ Firing of Catholic Prof.

By Kathleen Gilbert

URBANA, Illinois, July 13, 2010 ( – The University of Illinois has issued an open-ended statement regarding a professor of a Catholicism course who was fired after stating that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural moral law. The university statement says only that the school preserves a “commitment to the principles of academic freedom” and that the matter is being reviewed.

The university did not respond to’s (LSN) request for comment Monday. However, in an email response posted on, University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan stated that “academic freedom is at the core of our teaching and research missions,” and that he has directed the UIUC Senate’s standing Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure to review the firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell.

Dr. Howell had taught “Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought” at the university’s Department of Religion since 2001, and also taught at the diocesan-run Newman center on campus. It was revealed late last week that, according to the professor, he was terminated after the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns learned of his email explaining to students how homosexuality was contrary to the natural moral law.

Howell’s email stated in part: “Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.”

Robert McKim, chairman of the Department of Religion, persisted in terminating Howell even after Howell offered not to address the topic of homosexuality in class. Howell is now seeking legal action with the help of Alliance Defense Fund attorneys.

In his statement, Hogan insisted that “the University administration shares my commitment to the principles of academic freedom,” but “at the same time, we do believe it’s important to fully investigate all of the details related to this situation.”

“As I’m sure you’re aware, it is sometimes the case that public reports may convey only part of the story. I think it important to reserve judgment until I have all of the facts and I hope you’ll agree,” he wrote.

Hogan said he expected the review “to be completed very soon.”

To contact the University of Illinois:

Michael J. Hogan, president

(217) 333-3070

Office of Public Affairs

(217) 333-5010

[email protected]