University of Illinois faculty to review firing of Catholic anti-gay professor

Wed. July 14, 2010 1:53 AM by News Staff

Champaign, Ill. - Faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will evaluate whether the school did the right thing when it fired a Catholic teacher who said he was opposed to homosexuality.

Kenneth Howell was an adjunct professor of religion. During an emailed discussion with students in his "Introduction to Catholicism" course this past semester, he shared that he follows Catholic doctrine when it comes to homosexuality.

"Sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same," he wrote.

One of his students mentioned the comments to another student, who complained about the "hate speech" to the head of the Religion department.

Urbana-Champaign President Michael Hogan wants the faculty to rule on the firing by the beginning of the fall semester.

""We want to be able to reassure ourselves there was no infringement on academic freedom here," Hogan said. "This is a very, very important, not to mention a touchy and sensitive, issue. Did this cross the line somehow?"

In an editorial, the Daily Illini student newspaper said firing Howell was an overreaction, and that students should be trusted to think for themselves.

"Students go to college expecting to be exposed to different viewpoints and open our minds enough to understand them — even if we don't always agree," the editorial board wrote. "Inherently, one of the lessons of a class teaching the principles of Catholicism is going to be that homosexuality is wrong."