University of Illinois Professor Fired for Being Anti-Gay

My mind is being blown. The Illinois Family Institute and several atheists are on the same side of a controversial issue.

The issue is that Dr. Kenneth Howell, a professor at the University of Illinois, taught a class on Catholicism. He’s Catholic himself, but that’s irrelevant.

He sent out an email to students in his class that referenced his own personal beliefs about homosexuality being immoral.

How did U of I officials respond?

According to Ann Mester, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, “‘the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us.’”

As PZ says, Howell’s speech wasn’t hate speech. It was stupid speech. But as long as he wasn’t penalizing students for disagreeing — and he stated he wasn’t — then who cares.

The Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers at the University of Illinois are on his side:

Full disclosure: Dr. Howell is in my reckoning, a friend and ally of AAF. It is thanks to him we were able to put on a major debate last spring and hoped to do the same in the coming year. In spite of all our differences Dr. Howell and AAF are both committed to the open and free discussion of all topics of merit. We are equally committed to freedom of speech and to the virtue of public debate. We each see the university has a special place a nation should set aside for the free exchange of all ideas — offensive to some or otherwise. A campus is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, not an exercise in authoritarian squelching of unpopular voices.

What is happening here is not an isolated incident. This is the same university which only a couple years ago fired two editors of its supposedly protected free-speech paper after they reprinted cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. This is the same school that only months ago accused AAF of intolerance for protesting Islamic extremism. This is not just about the fate of Dr. Howell, but the degree to which we will allow any one ideology to control what we can say. What’s happening here, now is wrong. It is not too late.

AAF has a list of people you should contact on their site.

I hope people do write in to defend him. We as atheists ought to support freedom of speech even if it’s speech we find abhorrent.

The Illinois Family Institute is on Howell’s side, too. As usual, though, they can’t seem to write a press release that deals with homosexuality without comparing it to incest and polyamory.

If professor A were to express her belief that adult consensual incest is immoral, would she be fired because her belief constitutes hatred of those involved in incest and therefore violate the university’s Orwellian policy of inclusivity?

If professor B were to express his belief that polyamory is immoral, would he be fired because his belief constitutes — in the university’s omniscient, omnipotent mind — hatred of polyamorists and therefore violates its standards of inclusivity?

Have U of I’s standards of “inclusivity” become the de facto arbiter of morality for the entire faculty, determining which moral beliefs about behaviors are acceptable and which are not? It might behoove the university to spell out which beliefs are included under their policy of inclusivity — and which are excluded — because some employees might foolishly assume that the university’s standards of inclusivity would include Catholics.

Give them credit. They left pedophilia off the list. It’s like they’re slowly learning…

But even IFI is right that U of I is making the wrong decision.

Howell doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this.

  • Carlie

    I kind of think it’s ok in this case. The students have the right to feel safe in the classroom, and this email he sent blows that out of the water. Replace it with a “moral example” about Muslims, or Jews, or people of a different race, and how does it look? There are some things that teachers shouldn’t reveal to students, and that includes viewpoints that would make the students worry that they will be treated differently on a subjective level.

  • Claudia

    I’m glad to see that secular groups are stepping up for free speech. IFI gives a rats ass about free speech, its just a convenient tool that they use when they wish to justify speech they agree with. Had a teacher been fired for expressing pro-gay feelings they’d be on the side of the university in an instant.

    personal anecdote time: When I was in the 8th grade my social studies teacher was just this side shy of a black-supremacist. He made clear he was a lot more Malcolm X than MLK, though we heard speeches from both men and had to comment on them. Needless to say, being one of two white kids in the class made this a bit of a high tension situation. However he unfailingly treated me with respect and routinely challenged all of us, regardless of race, to justify our beliefs, whether he agreed with them or not. I felt that I could openly disagree with him without fearing reprisal, and he in fact pointedly defended me from other black students who had a somewhat lesser appreciation for freedom of thought. Looking back, I learned more from him than I did a whole slew of bland feel-good über-liberal teachers who staunchly refused to introduce any controversial subjects (controvesial for a very liberal town that is) into the classroom.

    I deeply disagree with Dr. Howell on the subject of homosexuality (and probably a lot of other subjects as well) but the university does a huge disservice to its students by firing him for having contrary views, assuming his treatment of students is otherwise fair and respectful. Insulating students from opposing views is not educating them.

  • Ed Hicks

    Disagree.
    If he wrote an email saying black people are genetically inferior he would be fired too, and rightly so. What makes orientation prejudice more defendable than racial prejudice?

    This all shouldn’t be confused with a freedom of speech issue, particularly because he is a professor – think whatever you like, but keep that to yourself when you are lecturing a group of people that almost certainly includes the people you are marginalising.

    Church should be separate from state – that’s not saying don’t have churches, that’s saying don’t have it in your classrooms, and I think the same holds for these kinds of marginalising views.

  • keddaw

    Why shouldn’t the IFI compare homosexual behaviour to polyamory or consensual adult incest?

    I know this is not how they meant it but people in these groups are in a minority shunned by society, afraid of discrimination by friends, family, work and the state.

    Every single argument for allowing equal rights for gay people apply equally to these other two groups.

    Would the U of I have sacked him for coming out against either of these two lifestyles? And would anyone from the AAF be backing him up if they did?

  • Matt Coleman

    Normally I’d agree with you on this one, but there are two critical points you missed.

    1- He’s an adjunct professor, and he’s not getting fired. He’s not having his contract renewed, which is completely different, since “adjunct” basically means “at the will of the University.”

    2 – Even if his rant wasn’t filled with bigotry, it WAS filled with terrible philosophy. The kind that shouldn’t be taught in philosophy classes, like the one he supposedly teaches. The philosophy department is well within their rights to deny him a contract renewal based simply on the fact that he’s not competent to teach.

    Brian Leiter has been keeping up with the story: he’s well versed in the philosophy (as well as the law surrounding the situation), so I’m inclined to listen to his opinion. Here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2010/07/the-strange-case-of-the-adjunct-religion-professor-at-the-university-of-illinois.html

  • Greg

    Personally, I don’t think he should be fired because of his personal views.

    The fact that he doesn’t understand a basic philosophical concept like Utilitarianism, and yet teaches philosophy, however…

  • JulietEcho

    In short, I agree with Carlie. I think the fact that he’s in a position of power and he shared an opinion that expressed value judgments condemning (likely) some of his own students is unprofessional.

    I wrote more on this here, in the forums, where there are some strong opinions on both sides.

  • Alex

    You’ve said statements to this effect before and I whole-heartedly disagree. If he had made a blankent statement about a race, there would be no argument.

    If I were in his class, I would feel so awful about myself and unsafe to know my teacher thought I shouldn’t exist as I was. I felt that way all through highschool, I went to a Catholic school.

    You have no idea how terrible it is to be on the recieving end of this bigotry your entire life. This is not free speech, this is watered down hate speech and it has no place in an academic institution or anywhere else.

    I can’t change what I am, I used to try. Men like him make the entire process so much more difficult for queer students. Our lives are not choices, who would choose to be so maligned?

    Homosexuality, bisexuality and other queer people have identities as queer people. Incest is a crime because it ususally is not consensual and if consensual, a choice. Not an identity. Your article only quotes a passage that makes that allusion but the fact that you did highlights why people think not firing this man is the right decision.

  • muggle

    I tend to agree with Carlie and Matt. At best, it was highly inappropriate. If I were a gay student in his class (and, apparently, the complaint stems from a student in the class who was indeed afraid to come forward, a friend e-mailed the complaint), I’d feel mighty uncomfortable and that I would have to hide that to get a fair grade.

    Maybe it wasn’t as blatant as god hates fags but it still displayed bigotry. A professor should be unbiased, at least enough to treat his students fairly. The fact that he felt compelled enough to send out an e-mail of this nature (a tad above and beyond a classroom discussion and by a tad I mean woah Nellie wtf time) to his students is very, very disturbing, designed to make a gay student uncomfortable in his classroom whether he admits it or not and really rather unprofessional. It certainly sends alarm bells that he protests too loudly that he will not let his opinion of gays affect the grades he gives them. The fact that he’d actually feel strongly enough to send this e-mail indicates otherwise.

    I think the school was right not to renew his contract and I hope he loses the case.

  • MeryMer

    Love your blog, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. A college can refuse to renew a professor’s contract for a variety of reasons. IMO, emailing students about your personal beliefs is certainly cause for concern.

    I am a college student and I have NEVER had an email from a professor. Why in the world would he email his class about his beliefs? Seems like he got fired for being an idiot and poor judgment.

  • Matt

    I agree with Claudia. The IFI is only speaking up because they agree with the professor’s views. The don’t give a shit about free speech.

    My question is, when does an opposing or offensive statement qualify as hate speech? There always seems to be a blurry intersection between hate speech and free speech.

  • Alt+3

    I think he should be fired for how amazingly dumb he is. Did he write that e-mail drunk? No part of the human body has ‘meaning’, only function. Sure, parts of our body have been adapted over time to best serve a particular beneficial function, but it still gives it no inherent meaning. By his reasoning I shouldn’t use my mouth to hold nails because it’s not what my mouth is ‘for’ (eating and talking). He needs to understand that his concept of Natural Purpose is completely bunk. If I want to put my penis in a womans vagina, a mans anus, a piece of fruit, a car exhaust pipe, or use it as a hammer it has no moral consequence outside of consent. I remain unconvinced that sexuality between any mentally fit, consenting individuals is in any fashion wrong.

  • TMJ

    As the link to Brian Leiter that Matt Coleman posted points out, this e-mail is just an example of why Dr. Howell’s contract is not being renewed. Dr. Howell is not being let go for writing one poorly worded e-mail; it’s just the final straw and is being used as the excuse.

  • Alex

    Matt: Have you ever been told it was morally wrong for you to exist?

    It’s hate speech. Christians say they hate the sin not the sinner, when they’re really hating someone’s identity and something they can’t change. That there is hate and bigotry, like saying you pity someone because of their culture.

  • Matt

    I think I need to revise my post. A more accurate question: does the professors statement count as an acceptable opinion on a subject, or does it cross the line into disparaging or intimidating a minority group? I modify my question, because freedom of speech includes hate speech, but should a University be required by law to allow hate speech? What if a neo-Nazi group wanted to have a student rally on campus?

  • Alex

    Students have a right to feel included and safe, so no. The duty of an academic institution is to protect its students, not allow them to be publicly disapproved of.

    He was in a position of power and made statements that put his queer or allied students into a lesser status than they deserve.

    He WAS disparaging a minority group. If he wants to do that, he’ll have to do it outside of his capacity as an educator.

  • Trace

    “…a car exhaust pipe, or use it as a hammer …”

    ouch and oucher?

  • stogoe

    The philosophy department is well within their rights to deny him a contract renewal based simply on the fact that he’s not competent to teach.

    It all boils down to this in my mind. Don’t use his bigoted views as an excuse to can him, it will only cause headaches. Going with “not competent to breathe without supervision” instead of “horrible human being” would have been the smarter choice here.

  • tim

    If you fired everyone that inserts their personal beliefs into their teaching – no one would be left to actually teach.

    My issue with his e-mail was not that he injected personal beliefs into his teaching – my issue was that he completely insulted his students intelligence. Either way – not enough to get him fired.

    @Carlie

    The students have the right to feel safe in the classroom

    No. They don’t. “Feeling” safe and actually being safe are not the same things.

  • Kevin

    As a bisexual male, I would be incredibly uncomfortable in a classroom where the professor expressed through an email that he thought who I am as a human being is immoral. I’m a PhD student in the social sciences, and I get the concepts of freedom of speech and academic freedom. However, there’s a difference between freedom of speech as an individual and freedom of speech while acting in an official capacity.

    If the professor would have attended an anti-gay rally, no problem. If he would have blogged about it, no problem. The fact that he, acting as an instructor, sent an email to the students of a class he is teaching, makes all the difference. It creates an environment of intolerance which is not acceptable. If this were in a standard workplace, it would be called a “hostile work environment,” which is actionable.

    The professor has a responsibility to create a classroom environment conducive to learning, which can include personal beliefs and controversial subject matter, but should not intentionally alienate a group of students based on a personal belief that their nature is immoral – even if he claims that this belief will not affect his grading (although I find that incredibly hard to believe, only because prejudice affects cognition and judgment at subconscious levels).

  • mike

    While I don’t view this as hate speech, it is stupid enough and offensive enough for the University to have to do something about it. My best guess is that we’ve only heard a small portion of what’s been going on; I doubt the University would be able to reveal “oh, this professor has done this, this and this in the past as well and due to all this, we’re not going to re-hire him after his contract expires”. If it were just this email, I’d think the consequences wouldn’t be so dire.

    Also, I’m not so quick to congratulate IFI. As others have said, they merely support him due to the fact that they do not like homosexuals, not in the fact that they support free speech. Also their defense statements in what this professor said are trite at best.

  • Matt

    Looks like this topic has quite a colorful history. Seems generally that the courts have opposed broad speech censorship. In many cases though, students are allowed to get away with more than teachers. It seems like the universities aren’t liable for student speech, but they might be for teacher speech (their employees). There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on this issue, but overall the speech that can be legally forbidden is very narrow.
    Some resources:
    http://www.thefire.org/
    http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/speech/pubcollege/topic.aspx?topic=campus_speech_codes

  • Hitch

    Reading his letter the problem is that on the dogma of natural law he stated it as true and fact rather than analytically. He was quite capable of thinking analytically about utilitarianism.

    To me it seems that the real criticism is that a topic that he is asked to teach and present impartially and with a uniform analytic eye fell pray to a dogmatic bias.

    And given that he is an adjunct, the university can indeed decide to try to find someone who will be able to take an overall scholarly look and find a properly unbiased presentation of the concept of natural law and reality.

    It may well be that this is what the bruhah is really about. If I was a student that is exactly what would upset me. A matter that should be subject of impartial discussion is presented as fact. And it’s exactly the dogma that is used to oppose gay rights. So there is a problem.

    But of course no party would say this. The professor fights for his adjunct position and the university looks to keep it safe for the students.

    I still think universities should not be too trigger happy. Explaining where the frictions are and giving it a second chance may be just as good. But yes, I think an adjunct position should be replaceable if the teaching is found to not meet the critical thinking standards that one can expect at the university level.

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leilani

    I so want to agree, but I can’t.

    He is allowed to believe what he believes, he is allowed to pose uncomfortable questions to his class, he is allowed to talk to his KKK buddies and drink with his fellow bigots. But I think when you show you are not qualified to teach and you put it in an email as a teacher to his students, you open yourself up to being reconsidered for your position.

    I am all for free speech, even speech I don’t agree with, but you can’t say certain things at work without getting ‘in trouble’. Free speech is limited in certain situations. My boss can’t call me ‘toots’ or ‘whitey’ or grab my ass. Well, he could, but not without consequences.

    As a society we deem things okay and not okay. And I think what this teacher did wasn’t okay. His email didn’t serve a teaching purpose, and it showed he isn’t qualified for his job.

    It’s sad that he lost his job, but maybe he should have thought twice about what his intended point of the email was. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

  • Aaron

    Hmmm.
    It seems Natural Moral Law means “things are for what I say they are for”. Where did they get the book that lists all the things in the world and describes their “purpose”?
    Oh, wait! I bet NML is a Christian thing. Check, check. Yep pretty popular with them. Declare the truth despite evidence to the contrary. I know which book!
    I bet at times NML also said that women were meant to serve men (they are weak and docile, what else could they do?), and blacks were meant to pick cotton (they have black skin to protect them from the sun!).
    I could just as easily say penises were obviously meant for sticking in anuses or bananas or for hammering things. How do you prove me wrong? NML sounds like bad philosophy.

  • The Other Tom

    Hemant, I disagree with you, 100%.

    Now, let’s pretend there’s a professor teaching about the beliefs of the KKK. It would be perfectly appropriate for that professor to say “The KKK believes that african americans are morally and physically degenerate.” However, if he were to say simply “African americans are morally and physically degenerate,” he would have irreparably damaged his students’ ability to trust that he would grade them fairly instead of discriminating by race.

    Similarly, it’s unquestionably okay for this professor to teach about catholic teachings, and even to believe in them in as much as it’s not related to his job… but when he starts expressing them to his students as fact, he has crossed the line from teaching about bigotry to expressing personal bigotry, and there’s no way that his students can ever trust his fairness again. Were I one of those students, I too would have gone to the university and demanded he be fired at once.

  • Claudia

    What if a neo-Nazi group wanted to have a student rally on campus?

    Then I would hope they would be allowed to do so, vile as their views are. Ditto for the KKK, the Phelps brood or fundamentalism Muslims of one sort or another. As long as there is no incitement or concrete threats, we must be willing to allow free speech. Its not the mildly controversial speech that needs protecting, its the outrageous, hated speech that needs protecting. If you limit speech on the basis that its grossly offensive and hurtful, then you are conceding that the right of speech depends on the sensibilities of the listeners, and therefore cannot object to, say, a gay rights rally being disallowed in an extremely conservative district based on the fact that most people there consider such speech disgusting.

    This is a teacher of Catholic theology and dogma at a university that explicitly allows teachers to share their personal viewpoints. He was, so far as I can tell, explaining his understanding of the Catholic reasoning against homosexuality. Its ridiculous reasoning of course, but that’s the nature of his subject. I personally find it exceptionally offensive that Christian teaching says I’m going to burn in everlasting fire for being an atheist, but I wouldn’t dream of trying to get a professor of Catholic theology kicked out on that basis. I’m sure that there are teachers (probably more of them) at that university who think the Catholic views on homosexuality are barbaric and stupid and let their students know it. Should a very conservative student seek to get these teachers fired? Unless there is actual evidence that this teacher extended his bigoted views to individual students and/or graded students based on how much they agreed with him and/or can be shown to be an incompetent teacher of his subject, then I think the firing was unjustified.

  • http://yrif.org Your Religion Is False

    Leaving his bigotry aside, his “explanations” of philosophy in that email were terrible. He probably deserves not to have his contract removed just on that basis.

  • http://whatpalebluedot.blogspot.com WhatPaleBlueDot

    There’s a big difference between holding views and sending emails to your class about them. They’re paying money to be subjected to your rantings; the least you can do is keep those rantings on topic and not go out of your way to make them personal. Your beliefs don’t matter in a class. Kindly keep them out of it.

  • AxeGrrl

    The following opinions reflect mine as well….

    Ed wrote:

    Disagree.
    If he wrote an email saying black people are genetically inferior he would be fired too, and rightly so. What makes orientation prejudice more defendable than racial prejudice?

    This all shouldn’t be confused with a freedom of speech issue, particularly because he is a professor – think whatever you like, but keep that to yourself when you are lecturing a group of people that almost certainly includes the people you are marginalising

    Alex wrote:

    If he had made a blankent statement about a race, there would be no argument.

    Students have a right to feel included and safe, so no. The duty of an academic institution is to protect its students, not allow them to be publicly disapproved of.

    He was in a position of power and made statements that put his queer or allied students into a lesser status than they deserve.

    He WAS disparaging a minority group. If he wants to do that, he’ll have to do it outside of his capacity as an educator.

    Kevin wrote:

    If the professor would have attended an anti-gay rally, no problem. If he would have blogged about it, no problem. The fact that he, acting as an instructor, sent an email to the students of a class he is teaching, makes all the difference. It creates an environment of intolerance which is not acceptable.

    Leilani wrote:

    I so want to agree, but I can’t.

    He is allowed to believe what he believes, he is allowed to pose uncomfortable questions to his class, he is allowed to talk to his KKK buddies and drink with his fellow bigots. But I think when you show you are not qualified to teach and you put it in an email as a teacher to his students, you open yourself up to being reconsidered for your position.

    I am all for free speech, even speech I don’t agree with, but you can’t say certain things at work without getting ‘in trouble’.

    ~~~~

    Hemant, I have to ask you: if you were a student in his class and he’d sent you and all the students in your class a disparaging email about Indian people, how would you feel? How would you feel going back into his classroom knowing how he felt about you and the ‘immorality’ of you being Indian?

    If he’d written a demeaning email about Jews, do you think the reaction would be the same?

  • Brandon

    When I first read this over at Pharyngula, I tentatively agreed with Hemant’s and PZ’s point of view. Now, with more information, I disagree.

    Having a contract renewal declined is NOT the same as being fired.

    Expressing personal discriminatory beliefs to your students in an official capacity as professor is NOT the same thing as free speech.

    If he had phrased his emails as “this is what Catholic/Natural Law philosophy says” instead of “this is the One True Way!” I’d agree with Hemant.

    If he had just said these things in an unofficial capacity to a student during an off-campus conversation, I’d probably agree with Hemant.

    If he was actually fired, I might possibly agree with Hemant.

    But with the facts as I understand them, I can’t agree. What he did was perfectly legitimate grounds for not having a contract renewed.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hemant, I have to ask you: if you were a student in his class and he’d sent you and all the students in your class a disparaging email about Indian people, how would you feel?

    If he’d written a demeaning email about Jews, do you think the reaction would be the same?

    No doubt, I’d be pissed off.

    But just about every Christian professor believes you and I are going to hell. Is that any more or less offensive?

    Even professors believe in a lot of crazy shit. At least in a college environment, they shouldn’t have to censor themselves. And while I am uncomfortable with the email he sent, I don’t think that should be grounds for a firing.

    Get rid of him because he doesn’t know his philosophy, or because he does a bad job of teaching his students, or because he grades people based on their ideologies.

    I’m uncomfortable with him getting fired because he shared his ridiculous beliefs in an email, though. To me, it seems like a slippery slope.

  • Justin

    What the hell is wrong with polyamory?

  • Aaron

    The professors explanation of Utilitarianism is just wrong. He suggest that Utilitarianism teaches that what is good for you is moral, where Utilitarianism teaches what is good for the sum of all sentient beings is good. He has gotten John Stuart Mill confused with Ayn Rand.
    His description of Natural Moral Law makes it sound like a big logical fallacy (appeal to authority). The Church says THIS is what nature intended, thus THIS is what is good. Well, what if the church is wrong? He tries to side step this, saying “Catholics don’t arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.” But they get that understanding from the church, obviously, including the insistence that sex only be for procreation. Sex does much more than that. According to him, sex between a married couple post menopause would be immoral.
    So, he maybe should have been fired for being bad at philosophy.
    Free speech however….Hmmm. Well, he put down a group in a way that was pretty clear it was his own beliefs. If he had phrased it “The Catholic church says…” that would be one thing.
    Honestly, I think the school is just litigation-shy. Putting the school in danger of litigation is a valid reason to not renew a contract.
    I do feel the sting of a violation of free speech principles, but I think he is getting let go for being dumb, mostly.

  • plutosdad

    He seems to work at the Newman center teaching Introduction to Catholicism. What do they expect him to teach?

    I didn’t see anywhere in that letter where he said “this is what I believe” as people seem to think, he is talking about “what is true” and teaching the Catholic belief. He just doesn’t couch everything in terms of “this is what catholics believe.” Probably because almost everyone in the class is Catholic, that’s what it was like when I took classes at the Newman center- all catholics, and people regularly voiced disagreement with the priest teaching. Of course he did not go into homosexuality that I recall.

    Maybe reprimanded in some way, but fired?

    Maybe they should just not give credit to classes at the Newman center. Since really it’s more like religious instruction, they are not a classes “about” Catholicism, they are Catholic classes. It is a strange relationship, they have their own dorm rooms you can use instead of one of the regular school dorms, and St. John’s is pretty intertwined with the school.

    It seems to me any ethics class or portion of a class talking about ethics would be the one place you EXPECT to be offended. It goes with the subject matter.

    Of course, if we have to always have people NOT of the religion teach about that religion, that gets pretty ridiculous. But I can see it going that way, our society increasingly devalues knowledge if we think the person is biased: which is why Offit complains we have vaccine advisory councils with no one that is a doctor or works for a pharmaceutical company on them, so only people that know nothing advise the government.

  • Neon Genesis

    Here’s the full email of what the professor said. http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2010/07/12/24262 “If two men consent to engage in sexual acts, according to utilitarianism, such an act would be morally okay. But notice too that if a ten year old agrees to a sexual act with a 40 year old, such an act would also be moral if even it is illegal under the current law. Notice too that our concern is with morality, not law. So by the consent criterion, we would have to admit certain cases as moral which we presently would not approve of. The case of the 10 and 40 year olds might be excluded by adding a modification like “informed consent.” Then as long as both parties agree with sufficient knowledge, the act would be morally okay. A little reflection would show, I think, that “informed consent” might be more difficult to apply in practice than in theory. But another problem would be where to draw the line between moral and immoral acts using only informed consent. For example, if a dog consents to engage in a sexual act with its human master, such an act would also be moral according to the consent criterion. If this impresses you as far-fetched, the point is not whether it might occur but by what criterion we could say that it is wrong. I don’t think that it would be wrong according to the consent criterion.

    But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML 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. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act. Consent is important but there is more than consent needed.

    One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the “woman” while the other acts as the “man.” In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don’t want to be too graphic so I won’t go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.

    Natural Moral Theory says that if we are to have healthy sexual lives, we must return to a connection between procreation and sex. Why? Because that is what is REAL. It is based on human sexual anatomy and physiology. Human sexuality is inherently unitive and procreative. If we encourage sexual relations that violate this basic meaning, we will end up denying something essential about our humanity, about our feminine and masculine nature.

    I know this doesn’t answer all the questions in many of your minds. All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult. That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions. As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion. Catholics don’t arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.”

  • http://ottodestruct.com Otto

    He doesn’t deserve to be fired for his beliefs.

    He does, however, deserve to not have his contract renewed based on his inability to grasp his very own subject matter. His understanding of the philosophy he’s discussing in that email is highly flawed.

  • everettattebury

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for this piece of shit or his “rights”. Not while gay people are still denied the legal protections of marriage, not while gay people can be fired or denied housing for simply being gay. Fuck him.

  • Greg

    Neon Genesis – that is not the full email. The full email is linked to in Hemant’s post.

    Here it is again

    You will notice (hopefully) both that the email professes to be about Utilitarianism, but in the main is not, and also that its writer clearly does not know what Utilitarianism is – which means he shouldn’t be teaching philosophy anyway.

  • Matt

    Based on his email, I don’t agree that he should be reprimanded on the grounds of offending someone. He may hold a view many disagree with, but he doesn’t outright condemn homosexuality. He does not say “I am right”. And he indicates at the end that he wants the students to think critically and question things.

    Sorry, I don’t see the problem. Moreover, I find the idea that a professor must walk on egg shells to teach a subject to be particularly distasteful. If he were teaching Calculus, and started class with an off topic remark about his hatred of Jews, that’s completely different. Nobody will want to teach volatile topics if they’re afraid of reprisal.

  • Hitch

    I think it is easy to teach contentious topics like the one here.

    All it takes is a simple prefix:

    Chatholic dogma says that [..]

    If he had concluded: Catholic dogma say that yhey do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.

    He could mention the criticism of those conceptions of reality that in fact do exist in the literature. In fact if he teaches he should mention those. He does not have to agree or disagree with it.

    This goes for all topics. I happen to believe that certain areas of mathematics are most promising. But my teaching should be neutral and encourage students to evaluate each method themselves and come to a conclusion.

    If I mention a method and not mention critiques of it that are relevant and present the method as unquestioned and true, there is a didactic problem here.

    Yes teachers should not have to walk on egg-shells. But that is not the point here. people do not criticise him for talking Catholic dogma. They criticise him for using the words nature and reality (his caps) and the line of argument that follows as if they are true, not merely Catholic dogma.

    So he has stepped out of discussing a world view critically into a position where he claims truth for a world view.

    We should look no kinder at someone who does the same in a course on Marxism, on Austrian Economics or on any other topic where there is known and legitimate multiplicity in views.

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    ahh i would really like to be unbiased on this 1 but it is rather difficult (had a similar situation with myself back in high school, damn thats going back a while im starting to feel old >.< hehe) aanyway just for the views side of things thats a bit of an unsure issue so we'll leave that however the fact that he cant grasp his own subject would really make it seem he is incompitent in his position so that i can understand not renewing the contract, cant be harrased to go into more detail cos im tired and i wanna go to bed! :( lol

  • Matt

    Then I would be curious to know if his contract was cancelled due to his inability to present the topic critically, or if it was because the university was skittish about anti-gay content.

    I agree with what you say though.

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    I’m torn. A professor shouldn’t be punished for his views. On the other hand, a university should have some recourse when professors, in their official capacity as instructors, present information to students that is not only offensive but also highly intellectually questionable. I think a reprimand and a requirement that he not spread misinformation in the future (“a doctor friend of mine says it’s unhealthy”? Really?) would have been a better solution. Then again, I wonder whether he would have been let go if the U of I weren’t flat broke and making budget cuts like mad.

  • tara

    I agree he should be given a pass. He is a religion teacher: he is just teaching what his and many other religions say, and he does not seem motivated by hatred at all–he may even think he is helping his gay students. Anyone taking his class has reasonable expectation of hearing the religion’s tenets.
    Congratulations for erring on the side of free speech (however inane the speech), especially when hatred is not a motive.

  • Sesoron

    This makes me feel thankful for one of my professors. Based on what I’ve heard elsewhere, this professor’s rather more well-known brother started his own university career as a fundamentalist, which may (but not necessarily!) imply something about his upbringing and by extension something about the rest of his family. Yet, after taking several of this professor’s classes, I have no idea where he stands on religion, only where he stands on the subject matter he teaches.

    I don’t think a teacher at any level needs to remain totally silent in all public fora about his or her views (or else I might not check this site daily), but I also don’t think these views should be brought to bear in front of a whole class. It’s a matter of more debate what to divulge to individual students who ask. When I was student teaching recently, I saw my mentor teacher grinningly deflect a student’s question about his own religious views. While he was teaching them something about ancient mythology (Greek or Roman, I forget which it was at the time), she asked if he believed in the myths he was teaching about. He said he didn’t (which reveals next to nothing), and declined to elaborate further when she asked more.

    I myself made numerous references to biology and evolution, and once a student mentioned that she didn’t “believe” in that stuff. Rather than saying something snappy about “well, you can believe all you want that [such and such morpheme in Latin] is [such and such thing that it actually isn't], but it won’t save you any points on my tests”, I put it more gently that science only conflicts with the Bible if you take the Bible totally literally. Now, had this been a science class and not a Latin class, I could have made a whole day out of it, but since teaching that much science wasn’t supposed to be my job and she was, in fact, being polite at least in form (regardless of intent — she had always been a very polite student, anyway), I held off a bit.

    A teacher’s first goal (after concerns for general student welfare) has to be teaching. If a student discovers something about a teacher that they intensely dislike, it’s almost certain to negatively affect their learning. A teacher who routinely informs all of his students about something that some are them are bound to oppose is essentially valuing those students’ learning as something lower than whatever it is he was trying to accomplish with the declaration. I can see maybe telling one student, out of earshot of others, that I’m an atheist if he seems to really want to know and isn’t just trying to be mischievous. I can see doing other public things away from school that avow my beliefs. But not declaring it to my students as a group.

  • Alex

    I love that people say he shouldn’t be punished for his views, when it’s his bigotry that is being reprimanded. That and the fact that he knows bugger all about what gay people actually do!

    How can it be ok for a teacher to say bigoted things to a group of people who are second class citizens because of views like his? And it’s all straight people agreeing thus far!

    You’re talking about a real group of people being told they shouldn’t exist as they are at an academic institution, a supposed safe haven for minorities.

    Can you smell the heterosexism in the morning?

  • Aj

    People should be allowed to be against things. Even if we disagree with them. They should be allowed to voice their opinion. Fuck students that might be offended. They have a right to be offended, they don’t have a right to stop others free speech. Students should learn that they live in a world where people may have different opinions to them.

    The only reason this professor should be fired is because he has shown great stupidity and ignorance, showing he is unfit to do his job. He clearly should not be allowed to teach students what utilitarianism is since he clearly does not know. His arguments are laced with naturalistic fallacies, appeals to emotions (using “baby” instead of “embryo”), dubious claims about psychology and health. At one point he seemed to suggest recreational sex became popular recently because of easily available contraceptives. He also claims that Catholics don’t base their morality on religion, something that is blatantly false. His Nature Moral Law theory is obviously an appeal to an authority of a deity, where ever he makes an unsupported claim about “complementary” anatomy or that sex is for reproduction, he is referencing God or one of his commandments. Whenever he states “NATURE” he means “God’s plan”. It’s highly intellectually dishonest for him not to reference the Biblical passages that are clearly his inspiration.

    He has managed to misrepresent both utilitarianism and Catholicism because he is more interested in persuading people to join his ideology than teaching them what they are. His email is more a forceful argument for his personal irrational beliefs, that’s not education.

  • Nick

    I found myself more or less agreeing with his argument up to about the half-way point; however, this soon changed. The main problem is that his argument is inherently flawed —> he’s using the “homosexuality is unnatural” point….yet he’s completely ignoring that homosexuality has its origins in nature (it’s not a choice). Not to mention that he’s desperately attempting to avoid mentioning his faith as a factor to his opinions.

  • R9

    Firing people in academia for having the wrong views is pretty iffy, even if we find those views to be ridiculous. One day that could be turned around to firing atheists.

    There’s a lot of talk here of him being unfit to do his job but I’m wary people are still conflating “he’s bad at arguing” with “he’s arguing for things I don’t like”.

  • False Prophet

    I have to agree with Hemant on this one.

    If the university decides not to renew his contract because he is incompetent, unprofessional, or repeatedly violates policy, that’s another matter.

    But he has the right to his views, and to express them. The university campus needs to remain a place where ideas can be voiced, debated and refined. The media, the workplace, the church and the town square sure aren’t going to foster that kind of openness.

    A prof at my grad school alma mater infamously promotes the idea that intelligence is related to race. He was very publicly debated by Canada’s most publicly-known scientist, David Suzuki. He still has his position today.

    When my undergrad alma mater had several heated campus confrontations between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli activists, the university banned the term “Israel Apartheid” from campus. A Jewish friend of mine (who fairly pro-Zionist at the time) expressed his anger in a letter to the university president condemning this undemocratic action.

    If we can’t defend the free speech of people who hate us, maybe we don’t really believe in free speech at all. “For me but not for thee” is not a policy I can subscribe to personally or professionally.

    I, for one, would rather the hatemongers speak loudly so everyone knows where and who they are, than for them to lash out with their hate in more destructive ways.

  • Sesoron

    Ah, the good old Grid of Disputation, is it, R9? Having read the infamous email, it seems that he’s clearly on the “crazy” side of it. I mean, a philosophy prof who doesn’t understand the concept of informed consent? He declares by fiat that some body parts are complementary while others aren’t. That is indeed poor argumentation, not good argumentation leading to an unfortunate conclusion.

  • Carlie

    The nonrenewal of contract was not for “having the wrong view”. It was for expressing directly to his students in the confines of material they were forced to learn in order to pass the class that they are immoral people.
    And yes, I do think that people who are racist/sexist/homophobic should NOT be teachers at all. The job comes with the responsibility of giving every student a fair chance to do well in the class, and anyone who automatically discounts an entire group of people cannot be objective in that evaluation.

  • R9

    How were the students being denied a fair chance to do well? They only had to understand this Natural Moral Law stuff – silly as it may be – not agree with it.

  • Sesoron

    Believing that homosexuality is fundamentally wrong is one thing. It’s possible for a homophylophilophobe* to objectively grade a gay student’s work, especially if he doesn’t know it. But telling a student that you think something that is central to his life is fundamentally wrong is an excellent way to make him stop caring about your class. Telling a gay student that you think it’s wrong for him to be gay is essentially saying “One of your most important opinions is wrong.” Say he then assigns a term paper which asks the student to synthesize research and opinion to form an argument. Some students may be hard-headed enough to courageously oppose the teacher’s prior claim. But since this man is giving them the grade, I find it more likely that a student would back down, and probably dismiss the assignment and the class altogether as a waste of effort. Performance would be likely to drop, if a student feels so diametrically opposed to the professor. Sort of a “Why bother?” response.

    *Coined from Greek parts by emeritus professor of Greek Rick Newton, to mean “someone who fears love of the same type”, a more etymological word than “homophobe”, which would properly mean “someone who fears the same”

    If a teacher wants to stimulate thought about opposing viewpoints, assign them argumentative papers or even pit them against each other. But don’t make them feel like the one giving them the grade disagrees with them from the start. Grades are supposed to come from achievement and effort, not opinions, and if a teacher is constantly displaying his opinions to the class, students are liable to stop trusting that supposition. A student who’s made it into college is probably smart enough to know that people are often dishonest or at least deceived by their own biases. Claiming to be unbiased has never been a guarantee against bias: just look at Fox News.

    Yes, students should be taught that there are people with opposing views. But they can be taught that without compromising the sense of trust that they have in their grader’s neutrality. It’s just bad pedagogy. Do I think he should be fired? No. Disciplined and made to apologize? Sure.

  • AxeGrrl

    Sesoron wrote:

    Telling a gay student that you think it’s wrong for him to be gay is essentially saying “One of your most important opinions is wrong.”

    Actually, it’s even more serious than that, imo ~ it’s essentially saying “one of your inherent characteristics is wrong“.

    If the professor were demeaning an opinion, I don’t think anyone would have disagreed with Hemant on this one.

  • AxeGrrl

    Matt wrote:

    If he were teaching Calculus, and started class with an off topic remark about his hatred of Jews, that’s completely different. Nobody will want to teach volatile topics if they’re afraid of reprisal.

    But if all aspects of the story were the same except for the ‘target’, and his email talked about the inherent ‘wrongness’ of black people (and appealed to natural law to substantiate their ‘wrongness’) do you think people would have been any more tolerant of his actions?

    Would/should the situation be treated any differently?

    (and I direct this question to everyone)

  • AxeGrrl

    Hitch wrote:

    I think it is easy to teach contentious topics like the one here.

    All it takes is a simple prefix:

    Chatholic dogma says that [..]

    If he had concluded: Catholic dogma say that yhey do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.

    He could mention the criticism of those conceptions of reality that in fact do exist in the literature. In fact if he teaches he should mention those. He does not have to agree or disagree with it.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this. It wouldn’t have taken much to make this a non-issue.

  • Sesoron

    Perhaps I should have phrased that better. My line of reasoning was something like, “being gay is a condition, and that the condition is perfectly natural and healthy is an opinion (mind, a very good and defensible one)”, along similar lines to “being morbidly obese is a condition, and that the condition is positively unhealthy and to be abhorred is an opinion (also a very good one)”.

    It may be helpful to know that I class the professor’s entire religious conviction as an opinion; I would also have to say that my own Humanism is an opinion, and my atheism may be to a lesser degree. At least, if we’re dividing statements into either facts or opinions. For example:

    Some people are gay (fact)
    Being gay is healthy and not harmful to consenting participants (fact)
    Other people being gay is just fine with me (opinion)
    Humans have solved lots of their major problems in the past (fact)
    Humans are able to solve all or most of their remaining problems in the future (opinion)
    There is no evidence for any god (fact)
    It’s extremely unlikely that anything we’d call “god” could actually exist (fact)
    It’s good to behave as if there is no god (opinion)

    If you agree with those classifications, I think you’d agree that the professor is denouncing the opinion that other people’s homosexuality is no affront to his sensibilities, as well as denying the fact that it’s of no harm to anyone who consents to it.

  • Matt

    AxeGrrl wrote:

    But if all aspects of the story were the same except for the ‘target’, and his email talked about the inherent ‘wrongness’ of black people (and appealed to natural law to substantiate their ‘wrongness’) do you think people would have been any more tolerant of his actions?

    Would/should the situation be treated any differently?

    I don’t think people would have been any more tolerant of his actions, no. In fact, they’d probably be less tolerant, because I think in modern society that racism against black people is much less acceptable than it was 50 years ago. However, discrimination against sexual orientation is a much newer phenomenon, it will take time for society to accept it and consider such bigotry to be as unacceptable.

    Seems to me the question is, do employees have legal protection to use racial slurs in the work place? I’m not well versed enough in law to answer this. I am very rabid about my freedom of speech, but I also understand how horrible such a discriminatory environment would be for someone. Guess I’m not sure…

  • Samiimas

    But if all aspects of the story were the same except for the ‘target’, and his email talked about the inherent ‘wrongness’ of black people (and appealed to natural law to substantiate their ‘wrongness’) do you think people would have been any more tolerant of his actions?

    Would/should the situation be treated any differently?

    (and I direct this question to everyone)

    I skimmed through this thread and I don’t think one person defending him directly addressed this.

  • Carlie

    How were the students being denied a fair chance to do well? They only had to understand this Natural Moral Law stuff – silly as it may be – not agree with it.

    As Sesoron says, it’s in the subjective measures. Apart from the possibility that if the instructor finds out a student is gay that he could subconsciously judge the student’s work more harshly, the student may self-censor and not participate in the class. No asking questions to clarify material, no participating in class discussions (which is often part of the grade as well), definitely no coming to the instructor for help outside class.

    I skimmed through this thread and I don’t think one person defending him directly addressed this.

    Me either. People seem in general to be a lot more “tolerant” of religious hatred towards gays than to, well, anything else. It’s not officially “hate speech”, but it is hateful, and instructors should not do it towards students.

  • Aj

    AxeGrrl, Samiimas, and Carlie,

    These Christians are working under faulty premises. The Bible establishes thought crime, such that things like lust are sinful, therefore must be a choice. They don’t believe in sexual orientation, at least an inherent permanent one, they believe you choose to sin or not. Is denial of sexual orientation the same as saying that a sexual orientation is wrong? No. Therefore he’s not talking about the “inherent wrongness” of anything, whatever that means. I don’t really understand “wrongness” in the way it’s used in the email applied to black people, it doesn’t make much sense, it’s referring to immorality which is not an inherent property.

  • Ama

    Being gay isn’t an opinion, it’s your identity.

    He should be fired for bigotry.

    His damn opinions about calculus or the colour red aren’t reason to be kicked out.

    Bigotry is because everyone deserves to be able to go to uni without being maligned by their damn teachers.

  • http://www.streetprophets.com Recall

    Other people being gay is just fine with me (opinion)

    I have no problem asserting that as a fact.

  • AxeGrrl

    Aj wrote:

    They don’t believe in sexual orientation, at least an inherent permanent one, they believe you choose to sin or not. Is denial of sexual orientation the same as saying that a sexual orientation is wrong? No. Therefore he’s not talking about the “inherent wrongness” of anything, whatever that means.

    I appreciate the point you’re making here Aj and do see the differentiation you’re illustrating.

    When talking about homosexual ‘behaviour’ and orientation, there’s a pretty direct link between those 2 things ~ it’s convenient to deny the existence of the latter and say you’re only being critical of the behaviour, but in my mind, that’s pretty much the same as the “hate the sin, love the sinner” nonsense they try to peddle in order to appear as though they’re not attacking the person.

    But what does all of that boil down to?

    The tactic of criticizing the behaviour solely and trying to detach it from orientation and suggesting that the restriction against the behaviour applies equally to everyone reminds me of this apt quote:

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread.”

  • kovana

    All in all. Im glad that they fired that guy. Hatred should be absent from the classroom at all costs.

  • AxeGrrl

    Did anyone else find these 2 particular remarks in Howell’s email to be eye-roll-inducingly hilarious?:

    “Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality…..you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter.”

    and……..

    “To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the “woman” while the other acts as the “man.”

  • kovana

    Fc*k. You only allow posts that agree with the subject matter!? Thats pathetic! I posted other posts which were against the status quo… and you had them removed They had no right to fire that guy. Fricken poofs!

    Wont be surprised if you remove this one too. Hypocrite atheists.

    I wont be converting to you guys now!

  • AxeGrrl

    kovana wrote:

    You only allow posts that agree with the subject matter!? Thats pathetic! I posted other posts which were against the status quo… and you had them removed They had no right to fire that guy.

    If you think that some post of yours was removed because it didn’t ‘agree with the subject matter’, then I guess you didn’t read very carefully……because Hemant (this is his blog) agrees with your position!

    “Howell doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this.”

    Did you seriously miss that?

  • keddaw

    He made the comments at a Catholic university. He was stating the official position of the Catholic Church.

    If he was at a KKK university and stated the ‘wrongness’ of inter-racial marriages or the inherent ‘wrongness’ of black people that would be fine too.

    Frankly it is hypocritical for a Catholic institution to not renew his contract for anti-gay statements when the whole religion is anti-gay. If they want to fire him for not understanding his subject matter then that’s a different issue…

  • cathy

    I disagree that this is not hate speech. Even if you take the position that it is free speech and should be protected, it is still hate speech. It deliberately is hateful towards and attacks a certain group of people, it is hate speech. The question of whether hate speech should be legally actionable is a completely different question than whether or not this is hate speech. It undoubtably is, the question is what is the justified action based on the professor’s hate speech to students (on that note, I agree with those above who have said that this is actionable because of the capacity the professor was acting in).

  • cathy

    Oh, also wanted to add that Natural Moral Law and Utilitarianism are mutually exclusive. NML would hold that what makes an action wrong is that it violates ‘nature’ (which brings up the naturualistic fallacy, but that’s a different note), whereas in utilitarianism, what makes an action bad is that it does not maximize utility (utility is pleasure from the act minus the pain/suffering inflicted). NML cannot be the proper ethical theory if you believe utilitarianism is true. So, a proper homophobic utilitarian argument would have to show some social or individual harm greater than the pleasure involved AND that taking steps to stop gay people would involve less harm than allowing us go. He actually invokes a contradiction to defend his bigotry.

  • R9

    I don’t see anything hateful. It’s a fairly dry argument based on some silly logic. Just because something is upsetting or stupid, doesn’t make it automatically hateful.

    And the course was “introduction to catholic thought”, right? Well that’s going to mean “introduction to some ideas that upset us secular liberals”. You can’t really learn about traditional religious thought and still be shielded from some philosophies we find objectionable.

    Maybe his personal opinions came into it a bit too much, I dunno. And I can see how he stopped making sense around the topic of informed consent. But I think one would have to do worse than this to lose their job (such as, failing people for having different views).

  • Lost Left Coaster

    @Keddaw: He was a professor at the University of Illinois, which is a public institution.

  • keddaw

    @Lost Left Coaster
    Fair point. It was a course in Catholicism, that’s what confused me (why would a public institution have a course on that? What degree would find it relevant?)

  • plutosdad

    lost left coaster and keddaw, the class is taught in the church. The church is on the university, and has several classes they offer that you can take through the university. The classes fall under the religious studies curriculum. I only took ones from the Newman center and a few on Islam though, and my Islamic class was taught by an atheist or agnostic (he refused to say but that was my impression). This was late 80s early 90s, and my class at the Newman center was taught by a jesuit priest.

    I think the much bigger issue is St. John’s Newman Center’s relationship with the University is probably a violation of the establishment clause. At least in the current incarnation.

    Or perhaps if they want to continue the relationship with UIUC in a way that’s constitutional, they’d have to change their classes from catholic classes to ones more “about” catholicism. Then it would be no different than classes about anything else in the religious studies curriculum. Of course, it would be a difficult adjustment. I wonder how many other universities have similar arrangements?

  • Aj

    AxeGrrl,

    You’re right of course, it’s convenient, nonsense, and biased. That doesn’t mean they don’t believe it. Christians are proud to be irrational and wish thinkers. It’s not a tactic, it’s a complex rationalization of a number of concepts they’ve been indoctrinated to believe. Humans are already biased to believe in freewill in these kinds of instances. Even some homosexuals believe that they can change. Why would God make homosexuals and then forbid them to act on their desires? Obviously asking someone to abstain from sex with anyone they desire for the rest of their lives is an unacceptable request. It seems unnecessarily cruel, and that’s why Christians can’t accept orientation. They do the same with atheists, they believe I chose to be an atheist, and they believe I could choose not to be. Religion is full of unacceptable requests.

  • AxeGrrl

    Aj wrote:

    Even some homosexuals believe that they can change. Why would God make homosexuals and then forbid them to act on their desires? Obviously asking someone to abstain from sex with anyone they desire for the rest of their lives is an unacceptable request.

    Indeed. On one of the amazon.com forums, a seemingly very intelligent gay Christian guy said that he refrains from establishing a loving one-on-one relationship out of concern and respect for his family (who are all staunch Christians apparently).

    How sad is that?

  • Clytia

    I absolutely agree that people ought to have the right to free speech, to express their views as they see fit, no matter how strongly I disagree.
    If the professor had expressed his views in his capacity as a private citizen, that would have been fine with me, regardless of the fact that I disagree with him and detest his views.
    However, he expressed his views to his students in his capacity as a professor and an employee of the university. That is not ok. As others have said, it would never be deemed ok by anyone here if he had claimed (in his capacity as a professor) that a racial group are unnatural.
    Private citizens do and should have a right to free speech. Someone employed by a government institution (I’m not sure, but it sounds like that’s what the university is) must realise that they represent the government when they speak from their employed position.


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