Saturday, July 10, 2010

Academic Freedom is Dying Out in Western Universities

There is a lot of talk about academic freedom but it is increasingly under attack by the Left in Western universities. Fierce battles take place between those committed to free inquiry and those committed to utilizing the university as a vehicle for leftist ideological purposes.

Here is a story about yet another Christian academic who has been fired by the Leftist censors.
The University of Illinois has fired an adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism after a student accused the instructor of engaging in hate speech by saying he agrees with the church's teaching that homosexual sex is immoral.

The professor, Ken Howell of Champaign, said his firing violates his academic freedom. He also lost his job at an on-campus Catholic center.

Howell, who taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought, says he was fired at the end of the spring semester after sending an e-mail explaining some Catholic beliefs to his students preparing for an exam.

"Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY," he wrote in the e-mail. "In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."

An unidentified student sent an e-mail to religion department head Robert McKim on May 13, calling Howell's e-mail "hate speech." The student claimed to be a friend of the offended student. The writer said in the e-mail that his friend wanted to remain anonymous.

"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," the student wrote. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another."

Howell said he was teaching his students about the Catholic understanding of natural moral law.

"My responsibility on teaching a class on Catholicism is to teach what the Catholic Church teaches," Howell said in an interview with The News-Gazette in Champaign. "I have always made it very, very clear to my students they are never required to believe what I'm teaching and they'll never be judged on that."

Howell also said he makes clear to his students that he's Catholic and that he believes the church views that he teaches.

Later, the article quotes the president of the American Association of University Professors as saying that professors need to be able to tell students what they believe.

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, said professors should be able to tell students their own views and even argue in favor of them, provided students can disagree without being penalized.

"It's part of intellectual life to advocate for points of view," said Nelson, an emeritus English professor at the University of Illinois. "Hopefully when they go out in the world, they can emulate that. They can argue a case, and do it in a well-informed and articulate way, and can make a more productive contribution to our democracy that way."

The university is retreating from the basic principles that make a university a university. Universities were invented in Christian Europe and now exist all over the world, but Leftist, anti-Christian ideologues are destroying the university by replacing academic freedom with censorship of anything that promotes orthodox, historic Christianity.

This kind of attack on freedom of religion and free speech does nothing to advance openness in scientific inquiry and it reduces the opportunities for students to study Christianity from the inside with someone who professes it, rather than being fed a caricature by someone committed to subverting it.

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