Ken Howell Update

The other day I wrote of the firing of U of I’s Ken Howell, who had taught “Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought“ and other courses on Catholic doctrine, understanding and reason:

The Howell story, however, goes beyond grim: it tells us that a simple charge of thinking incorrect thoughts and encouraging others to also dare to think, even if one comes to a different conclusion (“All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult . . .All I encourage is to make informed decisions…”) is enough to destroy a career and assign a corrosive label, at whim.

Such actions do not encourage future development of critical thinking skills; they encourage a clamping down, not an opening, of the human mind.

Today we read:

The University of Illinois says an instructor who recently lost his job over a complaint about his religious beliefs can continue teaching. However, the university says it will pay those teaching Catholic-related courses rather than have them paid by a church group.

The university said Thursday the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center will no longer pay adjunct instructors, like Kenneth Howell, who teach Catholicism courses.

Howell . . . says he was fired at the end of the spring semester after sending an e-mail explaining Catholic beliefs on homosexual sex to his students.

He says he was preparing the students for an exam. A student complained the e-mail amounted to hate speech.

The brief article does not link to the email where one can clearly see Howell clearly attempting to clarify a point in preparing students for an exam. Nor does it inform the reader that the complaining student was not even taking Howell’s class.

Nevertheless, I am not sure this is good news for Howell. Apparently the Newman Center was paying this instructors salary, very likely because the University is a public institution, and there were perceived church/state issues. Why there should be is odd; one would think that any school, public or private, that offers religious studies programs would think it their duty to accurately instruct on all religions included therein, but these are interesting times, so who knows.

This rehire–with the school, not the church employing him–does one of two things:

1) Makes it easier to eliminate the class in future

2) Gives the school control over what Howell can or cannot teach, which would be fatal to the class, and disturbing to our constitutional future, as it suggests the sort of business we’re seeing in the UK, where simply declaring Christian doctrine (whether doing it badly or well), or even simply offering prayers will be enough to get one fired or arrested.

Either way, if Howell agrees to this, the school will be able to claim authority over what or how Howell teaches. It’s sounds more like dirty pool than a real resolution.

And I’m not sure, but if a perceived church/state issue existed before this situation, causing the Newman Center’s involvement, does it not still exist?

Seems I am not alone in wondering about all that. More here

Also:
American Papist
Brutally Honest
Deacon Greg

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://sisu.typepad.com Sissy Willis

    Anti-Catholicism in academia parallels what’s going on in “racism” studies, brought to the front pages recently by the Shirley Sherrod incident. Its the Cultural-Marxism-disguised-as-multiculturalism thing I discussed in a recent post: link

    Very interesting things being written by Juliette Akinyi, AKA Baldilocks in her two-part series (the second due out today) “The Herding.” Part I

  • Last Sphere

    Since I live near the U of I I’m keenly aware of the university’s Left-Wing position. So when I first heard of this story my first impression was “Woah! The U of I offers a class that actually teaches authentic Catholic doctrine?”

    I’m sure this latest development is the school’s attempt to “rectify” that “oversight”.

    I cannot imagine that that Liberal cauldron will allowing such non-progressive thinking to continue on it’s campus.

  • Jeff

    More proof that liberals will tolerate everything except Christianity.

  • ahem

    Well, he can always teach “Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought as Interpreted by Karl Marx”. I think that would be acceptable to them…

  • Regina

    Unfortunately the new “liberals” insist on diversity in everything except thought. That, unfortunately, simply will not be tolerated.

  • James Stephens

    This isn’t a good deal for Professor Howell. He hasn’t been rehired if he’s being offered the opportunity to teach his class as an adjunct instructor. The university will get it’s class–for a very small fee to be paid to Howell–who won’t hold an academic appointment. He’s still out of a job!

  • Rick

    I read somewhere that Dr. Howell recommended that the Peoria Diocese maintain control over the content of the class by having it taught at the Newman Center, but with credit provided by a Catholic college. The credit would be transferrable to the University of Illinois. The proposal was nixed by Dr. Howell’s supervisor at the Diocese, but it seems like a very good option now.

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  • c matt

    I don’t really see a state/Church issue (at least, not if accurately interpreting the Con). I am sure they offer other religious studies as well. It is being taught as a subject matter just as any other philosophy might, such as an “Intro to Platoism”.

    As for controlling the content, seems they cannot without runnig afoul of “academic freedom” and then it seems the U would have to show that the content taught by Howell was an inaccurate presentation of Catholic teaching.

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  • Tonestaple

    Have you ever read the Big Lizards blog? It’s one of the smartest ones I read. They had this little tidbit up the other day: link

    Go, read, and be appalled.

  • ellipse

    As a Champaign resident and UI alum, I have heard a lot about this. It appears that this was the only such adjunct lecturer position within the UI’s religious studies program that was funded by an outside source. The instructors of similar courses for other religious traditions were NOT funded by those faiths. So for some reason there was an unusual exception for this one Catholic course.

    Remember, this is not a church-based program, rather a religion program operated by a state school. I would expect that persons having this major may be pursuing a religious career (either in a pastoral or lay role) in a variety of faiths, but would take courses in other schools of thought to better understand them.

    As a public rather than parochial curricular curriculum I understand that it would be difficult for instructors with strong personal faiths to walk the fine line between teaching and teaching here, but that comes with the territory.

    This is not unlike the position of US Military Chaplain. They must serve all the soldiers in their unit equally, whatever their faith tradition, regardless of their position as priest, rabbi, or imam. It is not like running a local parish.

    Hard job. But the other instructors in the program do it, I assume Mr. Howell can do as much if he wants to.

  • ellipse

    Oops, it’s teaching vs preaching, but I’d bet everyone knew that.

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