The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

BREAKING: Ken Howell rehired

From the Chicago Tribune:

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 taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. He 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.

Howell could not be reached immediately for comment on the university’s decision.

More details here.

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Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted July 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm

I am glad that he was reinstated, even if I had issues with his email. Honestly, another tempest in a teapot; we have had too many of those.
I like what was posited in this piece about the need for a “slow news movement.”
Now if the university pays him, that is a game changer, for good or ill.

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posted July 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Maybe I am just being dense but…what’s in it for the University of Illinois to be his employer insetad of the Church? Easier to can him next time? Harder to do so as a (I suppose) union member?

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posted July 29, 2010 at 10:37 pm

what’s in it for the University of Illinois to be his employer instead of the Church?
I suppose it will be easier to eliminate Ken Howell’s position when he retires.

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Ruth Walker

posted July 31, 2010 at 4:00 pm

The description of the class did not indicate that its purpose was to convert students to Catholicocism or to teach them that the Catholic position is the correct one, so Mr. Howell was clearly worng.
I read the questioned e-mail at and unless the Catholic Church has an official position that dogs can give consent the same way as people can, it was correct to dismiss him and should have been permanent.
Mr. Howell should have carefully qualified his statements with “I believe…” or “The Catholic position is…”
Academic freedom allows him to believe what he wants and to say what he believes, but not to give others the chance to disagree. The last paragraph of the e-mail implied that only those who have studied the same things as he should even allow themselves to have an opinion on what is moral.
He wrote: “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.”
How did that encourage academic freedom? (It does not even invite questions, but an e-mail right before the final is too late for class discussion anyway. That is very wrong for a class at a public university.) One does not have to study the history of moral thought to know that Catholics’ thorough understanding of natural reality is screened through their religious teachings and that many others thoroughly understand natural reality much differently!

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