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University of Illinois Reinstates Teacher's Job

University of Illinois Catholic studies professor Kenneth Howell, who was let go from his job earlier this summer due to his anti-gay beliefs (according to him gay sex is "injurious" to the body), has been given the chance to teach at the public institution once again. If you recall, one of student complained about his viewpoints, calling them hate speech.

Howell According to the Chicago Tribune: "The university released a statement Thursday saying Howell's appointment as an adjunct instructor in the Religion Department - teaching Religion 127, Introduction to Catholicism - will be continued for the fall. Howell also taught a course on modern Catholic thought, and the statement did not make clear whether he will still do so. A review of whether Howell's firing by the Religion Department violated his academic freedom is continuing, the university said. 'The University of Illinois is committed to upholding principles of academic freedom and the requirements of the First Amendment,' the statement said."

The university also revealed that they would no longer pay adjunct professors, such as Howell, who teach Catholicism courses through the a local church group, St. John's Catholic Newman Center. They'll now be paid directly by U of I.

But, Howell, as an adjunct professor, could still be dismissed from his teaching position at any time.

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  1. Once again accomodationism only favors the religious. No one else who holds a different view gets the same deference that religious bigots do. It's illegal and unjust.

    So this guy went well beyond teaching a course on catholic viewpoints into prescriptive value judgments reflecting his personal beliefs (tantamount to hate speech, breaking the trust of student/teacher and degrading the profession). To illustrate the first paragraph, if he had expressed a racist perspective, we wouldn't be reading this. Disgusting accomodationist inconsistency. Weak willed swine at U of I.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 3:20:27 PM


  2. I hate that there are teachers out there like this... I grew up going to Catholic school and my freshman Theology teacher "taught" us on the first day that if you have feelings for other men, don't worry, it's a phase and it will go away. Phew, I thought. That's what this is. So I put it aside for eight years and dismissed all thoughts, thinking it would go away... tried dating girls (tried VERY hard, heh), became confused, depressed, all that... until finally deciding on my own that it wasn't going away. I finally came out and have never been happier. That reckless, homophobic, most likely closeted teacher set my development back by 8 years. Same thing happened to another guy in my class. And another guy didn't listen, knowing he was full of shit. (yep, 3 of us came out... and counting) I wish I had been that strong willed, but I was young and didn't know any gay people or have any point of reference. I don't regret my coming out process... we all have our own story... but I hate to think about how many young people these jerks are influencing with their biased "education" on homosexuality.

    Posted by: Mark | Jul 31, 2010 3:27:27 PM


  3. Tank --

    You're wrong. Professors generally face no job action, or even vague opprobrium, for personally espousing atheistic worldviews -- and that's the relevant counterfactual here.

    Posted by: Wrong, Tank | Jul 31, 2010 3:35:37 PM


  4. Tank, did you read the actual email (not the excerpts taken out of context in the original article)? Because I did. Howell was explaining how one theological perspective views gay sex. He was teaching a class on Catholicism. If the whiney-ass student couldn't deal with opinions that he doesn't agree with, he shouldn't have taken the course, or essentially bated the prof into giving an opinion that he knew would upset him.

    Fact of the matter is in a university, ideas should be free of censorship. That's how learning happens. If we are so afraid of ideas that we don't agree with that we feel we can't defeat them except by censoring them, it says much more about us.

    Good ol' "Free speech for me, but not for thee." Classic.

    And don't bother responding, if your only method of rebuttal is hurling invectives.

    Posted by: Jack | Jul 31, 2010 4:00:53 PM


  5. "He was teaching a class on Catholicism. If the whiney-ass student couldn't deal with opinions that he doesn't agree with, he shouldn't have taken the course, or essentially bated the prof into giving an opinion that he knew would upset him."

    This is pablum. I did read the email. And in it, he provides false information and a personal opinion. This went far beyond describing catholic viewpoints, to personal value judgment. If the professor couldn't control himself and had to infuse his personal religious bigotry into the instruction, then he's unfit to teach the subject. Simple. There are such things as standards of teaching in academia, and being neutral is one of them. This guy couldn't meet any of them. But your argument really falls apart when you reflect (something you don't do too much of, I can tell), that if he had expressed as similarly incendiary opinion about black people, the university wouldn't have balked and reinstated him.

    And this is a clear cut case of the U of I recognizing free speech for a select few: religious bigots.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 4:08:48 PM


  6. @Wrong, Tank:

    That's because an atheistic world view follows the conventions of academia, which is based on evidence or proof. It's why a professor wouldn't face opprobrium for espousing that unicorns don't exist, but if that same professor was to write an academic paper claiming unicorns did exist, and had no evidence for their existence, they would be met with widespread ridicule.

    Posted by: Marc | Jul 31, 2010 4:11:39 PM


  7. "Fact of the matter is in a university, ideas should be free of censorship. That's how learning happens. If we are so afraid of ideas that we don't agree with that we feel we can't defeat them except by censoring them, it says much more about us."

    And this soft headed reasoning fails to take into account that censorship happens in all classes. If you walk into a class screaming about how jews are evil and are taking over the world, you will be asked to leave because you're a disruption. HOwever, that's an idea that's being expressed, and therefore, is something that shouldn't be censored according to your reasoning. So this person should be allowed to prattle on ad nauseam, robbing the other students of the opportunity to learn, for which they paid good money to do.

    Also, you're making the same stupid argument that all ideas are equally worthy of consideration. That's not true...some ideas shouldn't be taught at university...like false ones. If someone in a biology department were teaching creationism instead of biological evolution, according to you...he shouldn't be dismissed because creationism is just as viable an idea for the origin of life as biological evolution. You aren't worth taking seriously.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 4:16:48 PM


  8. Tank,
    Could you possibly be any more transparent that you live a highly miserable, sad life!

    Posted by: Ben | Jul 31, 2010 4:55:28 PM


  9. Tank --

    I can't respond line-by-line to your responses; I stopped reading when it became clear that you'd just responded with a string of vitriol. If you can make whatever arguments you made *without* any of the vitriol, I'll engage you.

    Mark --

    In fact, there is no way to "prove" atheism. And there are problems that science cannot solve that necessarily dissolve into either theology, philosophy, or (my solution), a shrug of the shoulders and an espousal of agnosticism. (One oversimplified example of this: "In what space/matter/arena/what-have-you did the Big Bang occur, and what fueled it?") Yet espousing straightforward atheism, and positions that arise from that espousal, are not cause for discipline or disdain in the academy. Two sides of the same coin.

    Posted by: Wrong, Tank | Jul 31, 2010 5:07:02 PM


  10. No, there was an argument in there, coward. Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's not there. There are likely many things you simply don't understand. That doesn't mean that they aren't. But you can't argue against it...so...as I said, this all goes back to you not understanding the definition of atheism. It isn't a belief about the world because it's not a worldview--it's not a belief about the world. It makes no prescriptive claims about how people should behave toward each other or the ethical status of anyone. So the parallel you're attempting to make between atheism and christofascist bigotry is false.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 5:10:47 PM


  11. Also, just because there are mysteries in the universe that science has yet to explain doesn't mean that the answer is god dunnit...god of the gaps talk (an informal logical fallacy). Scientists can properly say "I don't know," which doesn't imply that there's room for god...because that's simply appeal to ignorance.

    But this is about catholic bigotry, not about atheism. It is your interest here as a "concerned party" to defend religion against all criticism.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 5:13:30 PM


  12. and the fact is that no branch of science requires god as the answer to any resolved question about the universe...none...and considering it wouldn't be science to impose god as an "answer"...because the claim's not subject to empirical investigation (defined out of existence, actually) of any kind...it never will be an answer science can provide.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 5:17:34 PM


  13. No, Tank, I didn't suggest that there were no arguments within your stream of vitriol above; rather, I suggested that I was unwilling to wade through the vitriol to see if an argument lay within. Nor am I obliged to, as I'm not spewing any in return, just trying to suggest reasonable disagreement with you.

    Meanwhile, in your later post there was an argument worth addressing: while it is true that there's nothing about atheism qua atheism that would require that a certain given moral philosophy or set of moral philosophies collect around it, it's also true that there's nothing about theism qua theism that would require the same thing. Nevertheless, there are a set of moral philosophies that have developed on the basis of a theistic view of the world, one of which is the Catholic worldview of the IU professor discussed in the article. Similarly, there are various moral philosophies (which might reasonably be called "cultural atheism") that have grown up around the atheistic position. Surely the New Atheists, the poster child of whom is probably Richard Dawkins, carry a significant weight of cultural baggage/moral philosophy along with their theoretically value-neutral stance about the existence of God. I hope this makes the parallel I was impliedly drawing earlier quite plain.

    Relatedly, I'm not under the misapprehension that people who disagree with me are necessarily vile or stupid. Anecdotally, I have found that many who hold the opposite position fall into what might be called the Strong Atheist and Strong Theist camps. This isn't a universal observation, just a high correlation. I wonder if it's indicative of something interesting.

    Posted by: Wrong, Tank | Jul 31, 2010 5:36:05 PM


  14. "Meanwhile, in your later post there was an argument worth addressing: while it is true that there's nothing about atheism qua atheism that would require that a certain given moral philosophy or set of moral philosophies collect around it, it's also true that there's nothing about theism qua theism that would require the same thing."

    That's patently false. This entire controversey is evidence of that, in fact. There is something about being a theist (and all catholics are theists) that explicitly requires a moral outlook for them, and they'll the first to tell you this.

    "Nevertheless, there are a set of moral philosophies that have developed on the basis of a theistic view of the world, one of which is the Catholic worldview of the IU professor discussed in the article."

    Before there were philosophers of religion, there were people justifying their behaviors with appeal to a unverifiable, unfalsifiable deity. In fact, christians did things because of their faith (had a religious moral code) long before christian philosophers attempted to justify that outlook.

    "Similarly, there are various moral philosophies (which might reasonably be called "cultural atheism") that have grown up around the atheistic position."

    Name one. Because the fact of the matter is that atheism cannot cause one to behave one way or another. Ethics is an entirely separate idea from atheism, which further reveals that you simply don't know what atheism is. Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity or deities. From this lack of a belief in a deity or deities, you cannot infer any moral outlook whatsoever. In fact, an atheist could subsribe to the moral outlook of catholicism without believing god.

    "Surely the New Atheists, the poster child of whom is probably Richard Dawkins, carry a significant weight of cultural baggage/moral philosophy along with their theoretically value-neutral stance about the existence of God."

    The moral reasoning that religion does, in fact, cause harm...as beliefs do cause behaviors...and this is documented throughout history and currently....and to deny is to deny causality itself....is separate from their atheism. To conclude that certain types of beliefs are needlessly harmful based on evidence (as they do), because they cause people to harm others is to identify a fact, and from that fact they conclude that needless harm/suffering is wrong (using the definition of wrong), they are opposed to those beliefs. The opposition to those beliefs is entirely separate from their atheism, however.

    "I hope this makes the parallel I was impliedly drawing earlier quite plain."

    It does not. It, in fact, fails on all levels. Atheism (or lack of belief) does not cause behavior...just as not stamp collecting isn't a hobby.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 5:45:56 PM


  15. Tank --

    Here's our central disagreement. You define atheism as "a lack of a belief in God." I define atheism as "a belief that there is no God," and agnosticism, in contrast, as "an uncertainty about whether there is or is not a God." Additionally, I think that you're quite wrong that theism *requires* an accompanying worldview (one could easily believe in God without deriving any moral premises therefrom), and also quite wrong that atheism (because I define it as being a belief in the by-definition unknowable in the same way that theism is) is incapable of having a moral philosophy and/or worldview accrete around it. In fact, I suggest that there is cultural intellectual baggage that generally follows from a profession of Strong Atheism.

    I also think that the logical flaws in your position are now plain of the face of your posts, and you think the same about my position and my posts. That makes this a good time to agree to disagree. You're welcome, however, to the last word.

    Posted by: Wrong, Tank | Jul 31, 2010 5:57:08 PM


  16. "Tank --

    Here's our central disagreement. You define atheism as "a lack of a belief in God."

    That's a distinction without a difference, because you can't point to one behavioral or other difference between the two "beliefs". These two beliefs are, in fact, the same...lack of belief. An atheist has beliefs that rule out belief in god. Like, for example, the belief that evidence needs to be provided to believe something. Since there is no evidence conceivable that can be provided for belief in any god or any supernaturalist claim, this belief rules out a belief in god or gods. So unless you can provide a difference that doesn't assume that there's a difference (i.e., one's a belief, and one's not a belief) and beg the question (an invalid argument), there is no difference between believing that god doesn't exist and not believing that god exists (that is between weak and strong atheism)...the content is the same (barring people who are simply no thinking about it at all, which isn't the case).


    "I define atheism as "a belief that there is no God,"

    Which is identical to an absence of belief in god.

    "and agnosticism, in contrast, as "an uncertainty about whether there is or is not a God."

    Agnosticism isn't an ontological claim, but an epistemic claim (it deals with knowledge). Agnostics believe that it's logically impossible to establish or invalidate the existence of god, and thereby do not subscribe to the belief that if no evidence can be provided for a claim, that it should not be believed...that is, they don't believe in rational inquiry. Further, it isn't logically impossible, so agnosticism is false.

    "Additionally, I think that you're quite wrong that theism *requires* an accompanying worldview (one could easily believe in God without deriving any moral premises therefrom)"

    Well, when a theist believes that god exists, they have a belief about the way the world is (what exists)...so, theism does require an attendant worldview. As to theism not implying a "moral code," there aren't any extant theistic religions that don't have a moral code based on the belief in a deity. And all it takes is one theist who grounds their moral outlook in their theism to falsify your claim...and there are far more than that...catholicism does require a moral outlook...and as I said, they'll be the first to tell you this. So that's clearly a false statement you're making.

    "and also quite wrong that atheism (because I define it as being a belief in the by-definition unknowable in the same way that theism is) is incapable of having a moral philosophy and/or worldview accrete around it."

    Well, moral codes are basically lists of what you should do and what you shouldn't do. Since the definition of atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods, it says nothing about what one should do or how one should behave (even that one should be an atheist can't be deduced from the meaning of atheism), and from that, you simply can't infer any moral outlook whatsoever.

    "In fact, I suggest that there is cultural intellectual baggage that generally follows from a profession of Strong Atheism."

    You have yet to demonstrate how even a belief that god does not exist implies any behavior, or how one should behave. But considering that there's no difference you can explain without a circular argument between so-called weak and strong atheism, that's going to be awfully difficult. LOL!

    "I also think that the logical flaws in your position are now plain of the face of your posts, and you think the same about my position and my posts. That makes this a good time to agree to disagree. You're welcome, however, to the last word."

    Well, if you have no way of responding to the arguments offered, then you can bow out now. Thanks for playing.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 6:15:11 PM


  17. "And this soft headed reasoning fails to take into account that censorship happens in all classes. If you walk into a class screaming about how jews are evil and are taking over the world, you will be asked to leave because you're a disruption. HOwever, that's an idea that's being expressed, and therefore, is something that shouldn't be censored according to your reasoning. So this person should be allowed to prattle on ad nauseam, robbing the other students of the opportunity to learn, for which they paid good money to do.

    Also, you're making the same stupid argument that all ideas are equally worthy of consideration. That's not true...some ideas shouldn't be taught at university...like false ones. If someone in a biology department were teaching creationism instead of biological evolution, according to you...he shouldn't be dismissed because creationism is just as viable an idea for the origin of life as biological evolution. You aren't worth taking seriously."

    You are a moron, through and through. If you can't see the difference between a professor teaching a subject and someone disrupting a class, you've got serious issues.

    And who are YOU to determine what is a false idea. The marketplace of ideas is preferable, thank you very much. If the idea is wrong, it (and its speaker) will be ridiculed as such. Furthermore, the man didn't say anything false. He stated what NATURAL MORAL LAW thought about something. And he was right about it too. He never said it was undeniable fact, but are you going to can a professor because he says that Hitler considered Jews subhuman? Sure it hurts, but he DID.

    You are seriously deranged. People like you are why I would never ever in a million years consider myself a liberal. And this incident in general is one that validates my lack of unconditional support for issues that gays put on the table.

    Posted by: Jack | Jul 31, 2010 6:47:12 PM


  18. Doesn't matter. No one cares. Once the name calling starts... the debate is lost.

    Posted by: jexer | Jul 31, 2010 6:47:34 PM


  19. @Tank,

    I actually agree with you on a lot of what you're saying otherwise, but I do want to respond to something you say in passing which is that this guy must be an idiot to be an adjunct at his age. This guy may,indeed, be an idiot, but his adjunct standing in today's university's business model may not speak to whether someone's an idiot or even less qualified.

    Maybe even fifteen years ago, what you say there might be true. But the sad truth is that many of the universities are moving to push their departments into adjunct-heavy, cheap labor, hire-and-fire-at-will sausage factories. Which means that what they're doing is gradually and insidiously under-cutting the tenured professor model; i.e., gradually hiring less and less tenure track, and pushing more and more of the genuinely qualified into low-paying, at-risk jobs, where the universities don't have to follow through on even the most basic job safeguards or considerations. We're seeing this happen all over the country, where really effective teachers with Ph.Ds, publications, etc., are stuck as adjuncts or some equivalently useless title, having to take on-- virtually, if not even exactly-- the same loads they'd have with full-time tenure track but without any job safeguards, and still stuck with the same (lack of) job security as any first-timer hired right off the street. The unions, still caught in a model of at least twenty years ago, have also been notoriously slow to respond, stuck in a place where everything was about the tenure track (though we've begun to see some movement in this area).

    With the economy and a saturated job market, many universities are more than happy to let this process exploit as many people as it can as long as it saves them a few bucks. Meanwhile, administrative salaries at a lot of the universities continue to rise. It's (no coincidence) similar to the same model we're seeing in so many other industries these days: lay-offs and exploitation of the workers due to the "economy," while, oddly, the folks at the top seem to be raking in just as much-- if not more-- money than ever. I wish the university system were immune to this and it was truly about "merit" or "smarts," but I know quite a few people still stuck with the "adjunct" or similar title who are about 250 times more qualified and more effective as teachers than those who eked into tenure track.

    Again, Kenneth Howell sounds like an idiot, but its because he's a homophobic a**hole, not because he's an adjunct.

    Posted by: bobbyjoe | Jul 31, 2010 7:06:04 PM


  20. "You are a moron, through and through. If you can't see the difference between a professor teaching a subject and someone disrupting a class, you've got serious issues."

    Well, let's take that face value. Let's say that a biology professor was teaching creationism, faith healing, and charles dickens during the specified biology class. To fire him or discipline him for not teaching biology during biology class would be censorship to you. I think that's patently absurd, and I don't believe that disagreement with that should be taken seriously. Further, it was a blanket claim that all ideas are worthy of consideration, because that's "how learning happens"...and "censorship" is wrong. SO that's an idea...and according to that person's reasoning, telling that student to leave is censorship and wrong.

    "And who are YOU to determine what is a false idea."

    Funny you should ask. I don't determine what's and what's false anymore than you do. Facts do. Creationism isn't science has nothing to do with me...it's a fact. Science deals with the empirical investigation and explains how things work by making testable hypothesis that are falsifiable...and creationism doesn't.

    "The marketplace of ideas is preferable, thank you very much."

    Yes, where every idea is presumed true? Who the hell are you to persume every idea is true?

    "If the idea is wrong, it (and its speaker) will be ridiculed as such."

    Very good. So we should teach creationism during biology...that's basically what you're saying. And ridicule doesn't quite do any justice to the students who want to learn about the subject matter that they'd signed on for, and are prevented from it by the diversion and ridicule.

    "Furthermore, the man didn't say anything false."

    That's clearly a lie. There isn't anything specifically unhealthy about same sex sex, and he more than implied that there was.

    "He stated what NATURAL MORAL LAW thought about something."

    No, he stated what he thought about it quite clearly. His beliefs concerning natural law (which has nothing to do with nature, incidentally).

    "And he was right about it too."

    Well, not really. Natural law as catholics deem it. Natural law theory as secularists deem it...not really. But if you're endorsing his beliefs, then you're a bigot, too. And can be dismissed...which I'm gonna do right about now.


    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 7:17:06 PM


  21. I think that worldnetdaily has linked to this story on towleroad. There are a shit ton loony religionist wingnuts posting here.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 7:18:06 PM


  22. Good point, bobby joe. I rescind my claim that he's stupid because he's an adjunct at his age. But he's still an idiot.

    Posted by: TANK | Jul 31, 2010 7:22:09 PM


  23. I may not agree with, or support Tank's slash and burn style of debate, but I agree 100% with the facts of his argument.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jul 31, 2010 8:06:17 PM


  24. I CERTAINLY don't agree with or support the slash and burn nastiness that's being hurled AT Tank either.

    Tank, I think you might very well be right with your suspicion that Towleroad must have been linked from WingNutDaily or some other right-wing or fundamentalist site.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jul 31, 2010 11:42:51 PM


  25. Yay fundies! Where the hell do these people get the notion that all ideas are equally valid? Ideas are valid only within a certain context, a catholic studies professor claiming that gay sex is inherently injurious to the body is just spouting garbage in the wrong forum.

    It doesn't matter if you are a theist or an atheist, teaching untruths as fact is unbecoming of a professor and he should be fired. A university IS a marketplace of ideas, but these ideas should have merit. Claiming something from thin air and labeling it as fact is considered merit for you people?

    And yes, Tank's nastiness tends to conceal the fact that his arguments are well thought out and the logic behind them is flawless most of the time. It's enlightening if you're willing to sift through the vitriol though. And kick me in the head, but sometimes... it's kinda hot.

    Posted by: Dev | Aug 1, 2010 12:29:54 AM


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