By Jacob Sullum
Last spring the University of Illinois fired Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor of religion at the school's Urbana-Champaign campus, after he told students during a class discussion of the Catholic ban on homosexual sex that he agreed with the church's position.
According to the Associated Press, "A friend of an unidentified student complained in a May 13 e-mail to Robert McKim, head of the religion department, that Howell's stance amounted to 'hate speech,'" which "led to Howell's firing." Now the university's president, Michael Hogan, is asking the Faculty Senate to consider the matter:
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We want to be able to reassure ourselves there was no infringement on academic freedom here. This is a very, very important, not to mention a touchy and sensitive, issue. Did this cross the line somehow?
Hogan's avowed desire for reassurance is not exactly reassuring, since it suggests a predetermined conclusion. It's hard to imagine how firing a religion professor for stating his opinion on a moral issue would not violate his academic freedom (not to mention his First Amendment rights, since the University of Illinois is a public school).