Wednesday, September 20, 2017

University of Illinois Says Barred Religion Teacher Will Return

August 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles, World News

From ChicagoBreakingNews.com:

An adjunct religion instructor barred from teaching by the University of Illinois after defending the Roman Catholic stance on homosexuality has been invited back to teach this fall.

Adjunct associate professor Kenneth Howell was reinstated today — a day after the deadline when his lawyers said they would sue the university for violating his academic freedom if administrators failed to reinstate him.

University officials also announced they would sign Howell’s paychecks, ending an unconventional decades-long practice by which the church compensated whoever taught Catholic studies at the state university.

Jordan Lorence, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal consortium representing Howell, commended university officials for reconsidering their actions and reinstating the associate professor.

“The university has righted the wrong by letting Ken Howell back into the classroom,” Lorence said. “They should never have removed him in the first place.”

Howell, who has taught on the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2001, was removed last month after explaining during class why the church believes that homosexual behavior violates natural moral law. He elaborated later in an e-mail that lawyers say circulated around campus, prompting one student to call it “hate speech.”

“All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult,” Howell wrote. “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.”

His subsequent removal generated outcry from alumni and students, including a Save Dr. Ken Facebook page. On Thursday, the page was filled with posts celebrating victory.

“I think the university realized from all this public criticism that they needed to examine their actions,” Lorence said. “I don’t think this was the university caving to improper pressure.”

But the reinstatement is only temporary. It does not affect an ongoing faculty review, which has been investigating whether Howell’s immediate removal violated his academic freedom or right to due process.

“We are going to be monitoring what happens now to make sure Ken Howell’s academic freedom under the First Amendment is protected,” Lorence said.

Another faculty committee appointed to examine the circumstances of Howell’s compensation concluded that the university’s relationship with St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, the Catholic ministry on campus, was indeed improper.

Though Howell taught “Introduction to Catholicism” and “Modern Catholic Thought” in university classrooms, he served on the payroll of the Newman Center funded by the diocese of Peoria — an agreement that remained in place despite scholars’ objections when a religious studies program was established in 1971.

The university’s Catholic chaplain at the time, Msgr. Edward Duncan, secured the unusual accommodation for Catholics. According to public records provided by the university, during the last 21 years, Duncan has given at least $464,000 for event sponsorships, performance support and support to the Campaign for Young Audiences.

“The basic problems of this relationship had been well-established and well-documented over a long period of time,” said Nicholas Burbules, a professor on the committee that reviewed the relationship. “This is the time to undo something that probably should’ve been undone 40 years ago.”

Howell now will earn $10,000 from the university for teaching “Introduction to Catholicism” in the religious studies department this fall.

But Burbules added that’s not to say the Newman Center or other campus ministries shouldn’t offer religious education, only that students should not earn credit for that instruction that counts toward graduation.

“There’s absolutely a place for instruction through the Newman Center,” he said. “There needs to be a strict firewall between instruction at the Newman Center and the religious studies department.”

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