Thought Crime at University of Illinois

Ken Howell has been fired by the University of Illinois. He was an adjunct professor, teaching a class on Catholicism. He was also on staff at the Newman Center, employed full-time by the Diocese of Peoria. This Newman Center has had a unique program of employing resident theologians who can expand the influence of the Center into the very heart of the university by teaching courses for credit in Catholicism.

Howell got in trouble because he actually believed what he taught. That’s a crime at University of Illinois. Oh, it’s OK for evolutionists to believe in evolution. It’s OK for evolutionists to mock religion. It’s OK for psychologists to believe in homosexuality. It’s OK for them to mock religions that don’t. But it isn’t OK to teach a class on Catholicism and say you believe what the Catholic church teaches on morality. That’s what got him fired.

And then, to add insult to injury, the Diocese of Peoria fired him. They didn’t go to bat for him and go after the university on first amendment and academic freedom grounds (the Alliance Defense Fund may do that). Instead, they canned him for the simple reason that he was hired so that he could teach at the university, and if he can’t do that, then he’s of no use to them.

Fox News reports. Tom Peters posts a letter from Ken. Part of the problem is he no longer has the boss who hired him–Msgr. Stuart Swetland. When Ken suggested they offer courses at the Newman Center itself, and have them accredited through a Catholic university, so students could transfer them, the current director wouldn’t discuss the idea. So, says Ken, for the first time in sixty years, students at the Newman Center won’t be able to take Catholic classes for credit.

Oh, and the complaint that got him fired came not from a student in the class, but from a “friend” of a student in the class. That was enough for the chairman of the department and the university administration.

See also Rod Dreher, Francis Beckwith.