For nine years Kenneth Howell has been an adjunct lecturer at the University of Illinois in its Department of Religion. One of the courses he has taught for the school is "Introduction to Catholicism."
As part of this course, Howell discusses natural law theory and its application to social issues. In preparation for an exam, Howell emailed his students a lengthy discussion of the theories of utilitarianism and natural law and how they would apply in judging the morality of homosexual acts.
Here's a small portion of that e-mail:
"Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."
Professor Howell is not breaking news here. He's simply explaining the theory of natural law and how it is used in Roman Catholic teaching regarding homosexual acts. It's what he's paid to do.
Or was paid to do. The University of Illinois Department of Religion has decided it will no longer use his services. Why? A student complained that Howell was engaging in "hate speech."
A friend of one of Howell's students emailed the head of the religion department with the complaint, apparently because the student wished to remain anonymous.
Here's a portion of that email:
"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation."
The Alliance Defense Fund has taken up Professor Howell's case. In a press release, the ADF's senior counsel, David French, sums the situation up rather succinctly: "It's ridiculous that a school would fire a professor . . . when he simply taught Catholic beliefs in a class about Catholic beliefs."