Instructor of Catholicism at UI claims loss of job violates academic freedom

Instructor of Catholicism at UI claims loss of job violates academic freedom

URBANA – An adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism at the University of Illinois has lost his teaching job there, and he claims it is a violation of his academic freedom.

Kenneth Howell was told after the spring semester ended that he would no longer be teaching in the UI's Department of Religion. The decision came after a student complained about a discussion of homosexuality in the class in which Howell taught that the Catholic Church believes homosexual acts are morally wrong.

Howell has been an adjunct lecturer in the department for nine years, during which he taught two courses, Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. He was also director of the Institute of Catholic Thought, part of St. John's Catholic Newman Center on campus and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Funding for his salary came from the Institute of Catholic Thought.

One of his lectures in the introductory class on Catholicism focuses on the application of natural law theory to a social issue. In early May, Howell wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students, in preparation for an exam, in which he discusses how the theory of utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts.

"Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY," he wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The News-Gazette. "In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."

He went on to write there has been a disassociation of sexual activity from morality and procreation, in contradiction of Natural Moral Theory.

The student complaint came in a May 13 e-mail to Robert McKim, head of the religion department. The author of the e-mail said he was writing on behalf of a friend – a student in Howell's class, who wanted to remain anonymous. The e-mail complained about Howell's statements about homosexuality, which the student called "hate speech."

"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," the student wrote in the e-mail. "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."

Howell said he was presenting the idea that the Catholic moral teachings are based on natural moral law, and the Catholic understanding of what that means.

"My responsibility on teaching a class on Catholicism is to teach what the Catholic Church teaches," Howell said. "I have always made it very, very clear to my students they are never required to believe what I'm teaching and they'll never be judged on that."

He also said he's open with students about his own beliefs.

"I tell my students I am a practicing Catholic, so I believe the things I'm teaching," he said. "It's not a violation of academic freedom to advocate a position, if one does it as an appeal on rational grounds and it's pertinent to the subject."

Cary Nelson, a UI emeritus professor of English and president of the American Association of University Professors, agreed. He said while many professors choose not to share their beliefs with students, they are free to do so and to advocate for a particular position.

"We think there is great value in faculty members arguing in a well-articulated way," Nelson said. "What you absolutely cannot do is require students to share your opinions. You have to offer students the opportunity to freely disagree, and there can be no penalty for disagreeing."

Nelson is the co-author of a 2007 AAUP statement on "Freedom in the Classroom," as well as the author of a recent book that deals with academic freedom.

"It's part of intellectual life to advocate for points of view," he said, adding he has often used it to start a lively discussion in his classroom.

"Hopefully when they go out in the world, they can emulate that. They can argue a case, and do it in a well-informed and articulate way, and can make a more productive contribution to our democracy that way," he said.

Nelson also said it would be inappropriate to remove someone from a teaching position because they advocated for a position, unless they also required that their students to share the same belief.

Howell said when McKim talked with him about his teaching position, McKim expressed concern that Howell's statements in class would hurt the department. McKim is currently out of the country, and he deferred questions to Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs.

Kaler declined to comment on the specifics of a personnel matter. She said adjunct lecturers are hired on a semester-by-semester basis, and they have no expectation that their employment will last longer than that semester.

Kaler also said the UI is "absolutely committed to teaching the theory of Catholicism, but it's up to the department as to who teaches a class."

The religion department's website says Howell was recognized for excellent teaching in the spring and fall semesters of 2008 and 2009.

In a series of e-mail exchanges between McKim and UI administrators about how to proceed regarding Howell's teaching and his appointment as an adjunct professor, McKim states he will send a note to Howell's students and others who were forwarded his e-mail to students, "disassociating our department, College, and university from the view expressed therein."

In another e-mail, Ann Mester, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wrote that she believes "the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."

Howell said he and McKim have deep disagreements over religious matters, and his job loss was the result of "just a very, very deep disagreement about the nature of what should be taught and what should not be taught.

"It's an egregious violation of academic freedom," he added.

The UI Academic Staff Handbook's statement on academic freedom states that faculty members must teach their courses in a way consistent with the scheduled time, course content and course credit. "Within these constraints, they are entitled to freedom in the classroom in developing and discussing according to their areas of competence the subjects that they are assigned."

They must also provide students with "the freedom to consider conflicting views and to make their own evaluation of data, evidence, and doctrines. Furthermore, faculty members have a responsibility to maintain an atmosphere conducive to intellectual inquiry and rational discussion."

Howell said he disagrees with the idea that a professor must present lessons without even hinting at his own beliefs on a subject.

"It doesn't seem to me to be particularly honest or fair to a student. If you believe something, you can tell the student that," he said. "Where it becomes problematic is if it becomes injurious to a student by penalizing them for their beliefs. I always tried to be fair and honest and upfront with my students, and engage them on questions of human reason."

In his e-mail to students, Howell wrote: "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."

Howell said he's often had students who disagree with him, but "that's always been done with courtesy and respect on both our parts. This semester the students were the most negative and vociferous and critical that I've ever seen."

Howell is working with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian-based organization that "provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense and advocacy of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values," according to its website. Howell said his goal is to be restored to the classroom so he can continue teaching his courses.

The Alliance Defense Fund has just begun looking into Howell's situation, according to a spokesman.

Senior counsel David French provided a written statement, saying "A university cannot censor professors' speech – including classroom speech related to the topic of the class – merely because some students find that speech 'offensive.' Professors have the freedom to challenge students and to educate them by exposing them to different views. The Alliance Defense Fund is working with Professor Howell because the defense of academic freedom is essential on the university campus."

After losing his teaching position with the UI, Howell was told by the Newman Center that he would no longer be employed there either. The Newman Center referred requests for comment to the diocese office in Peoria.

Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese and an attorney, said, "We funded the position so he could teach at the UI. He has been told he cannot teach these classes in the future.

"We are very concerned and very distressed by what we understand is the situation from Dr. Howell," she said, adding the diocese has contacted the UI and hopes to meet to talk about the matter.

Howell was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1978. In 1996, he converted to the Catholic faith. He came to the UI in 1998 to teach at the Newman Center.

News-Gazette staff writer Lynda Zimmer contributed to this report.

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Keith Hays wrote on July 09, 2010 at 8:07 am

There is a material difference between teaching about Catholic doctrine and preaching Catholic doctrine. It should come as no surprise that Catholic doctrine holds that homosexual acts are contrary to natural moral law and thus sinful by definition. Nor should it come as any surprise that when teaching about that doctrine an instructor might engage in spirited debate with his students while exploring the parameters of the concept of natural moral law. Any teacher worth his salt would encourage and promote that kind of free wheeling discussion even to the extent of appearing to advocate one or the other side of the debate.

When, more than a half-century ago, I took comparative religion courses offered by both the U of I philosophy department and the various religious foundations associated with the campus that kind of lively debate was not only expected but encouraged - especially, I recall, by the Priest who taught the course offered by the Newman Foundation. It was in the Comparative Religions course taught by the late Prof. Harry Tiebout that I heard Leo Koch guest lecturing on atheism declare, "Praise be to man's penis for without it none of us would be here!" Prof. Tiebout interrupted with, "Except Jesus Christ!". Prof. Koch was let go shortly after that episode for, among other things, the infamous free love letter to the Daily Illini.

Dr. Howell's situation calls that incident to mind.

I should add that I am am a Protestant, heterosexual male graduate of the University of Illinois so that the reader may better evaluate my remarks.

shurstrike wrote on July 09, 2010 at 8:07 am

Wow, the thought police have landed right at our back door! How on earth is that "hate speech"? If that's what the Catholic church teaches, and he was hired to teach the position of the Catholic church, what's he supposed to do? Gloss over it? Condone it? If he were to do either of those, then he's not fulfilling the terms of his agreement to teach!

And then the university claims to be "absolutely committed to teaching the theory of Catholicism", so who are they going to replace Howell with to teach the class, someone who WON'T teach some of the core beliefs of Catholics and Christians worldwide? Sheesh!!

For the record, I am not Catholic, nor will ever be, but you don't have to be a legal analyst to tell violation of academic freedom and freedom of speech when you see it. And since all the libs are great advocates of freedom of speech, certainly you will agree with this.

squeaky wrote on July 09, 2010 at 10:07 am

While adjunct professors are hired on a semester to semester basis, this is clearly an abridgement of academic freedom. Professor Howell will easily prevail should he choose to litigate.

M. Forrest wrote on July 09, 2010 at 12:07 pm

While I will wait until more details emerge before reaching a firm judgment, I'm very troubled by what has been divulged at this juncture. It certainly does appear that Mr. Howell is being silenced for simply and accurately conveying what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexual acts violating the natural law.

It has been some time since I have seen or spoken with Mr. Howell, but I always found him to be an extremely bright, decent, charitable, forthright and honest person. Unless one turns the definition of "hate" upside down, I don't believe for a moment that he has engaged in actual "hate" speech. It seems far more likely to me that this is another case of extreme sensitivities and political correctness.

I hope and pray that this matter is resolved soon and he is allowed to return to teaching at UI -- for his sake, for the sake of UI and most importantly, for the sake of all the students at UI.

jerrysbear wrote on July 09, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I read both emails now, and I don't see a problem with the professor's email. I don't agree with the Catholic churches position, but the professor was merely teaching his students a framework for evaluating whether something is moral or not. I can understand an undergraduate not understanding the method of using a framework, but the university should have recognized that the professor was just teaching a framework and using homosexuality as the example for act being evaluated.

bluegrass wrote on July 09, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Our rights as Americans are expanding to include the right not to be offended, even when the offense comes as a result of the education received from a class someone paid good money to take.

SkyBlue wrote on July 09, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Understanding other perspectives with which one disagrees is a crucial skill for students, and one this course seems to be encouraging them to develop. It's easy to label an opposing viewpoint (as "hate speech", for example) but it takes much more thought to consider that viewpoint and respond rationally, which would including reasoning about the criteria for a label like "hate speech". If a professor is guilty of hate speech for explaining in a class on Catholic thought the basis for a Catholic moral position, much discussion in classes dealing with the history of thought or any debatable, controversial issues could be shut down.

The Natural Moral Law basis of the Catholic viewpoint is of course appropriate content for a class on Catholic thought. Professor Howell's email explains how NML applies to the relevant cultural issue the class had been discussing and he asks the class to consider two opposing moral theories (Utilitarianism and NML) rationally. Based on what's presented here, they aren't required to agree with the Catholic position, but to understand it. How can students be fully educated if professors can’t discuss ideas and theories that offend any student or group of students? My education at the U of I and elsewhere would have been diminished if I hadn't been exposed to perspectives of professors and other students whose beliefs, ideas and arguments differed from my own and even made me uncomfortable at times. I'm very glad my education included opportunities to gain an understanding of the reasons others, including professors, have the viewpoints they do. I'm deeply concerned that the university would now go in the direction of restricting academic freedom, rather than promoting the kind of rigorous thought and engagement with difficult issues and contrasting arguments that is a key part of a college education.

richard wrote on July 09, 2010 at 1:07 pm

"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."
Does nobody catch the irony here? Certain contributions to public discourse are not to be tolerated? Independent thought must not tolerate certain world views? Freedom of speech can be free only if heavily censored? I hope UIUC pays dearly for this!

Tony wrote on July 09, 2010 at 1:07 pm

His freedom of speech has been violated. I don't understand why the University opposes the same inclusion it claims it stands for!

frdon58 wrote on July 09, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Both the student and friend both reacted illogically to the situation. They knew that they were attending a class on Catholic teaching or thought. And most people (unless you live in a cave or romote island somewhere) know the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning morals. Aparently they had no logical, rational or intellectual defense of their views, therefore they went into a defensive mode by making false accusations such as his authoritarian demand for his belief only. If this was truely the case, I think there would have been alot more complaints earlier and he would not have been teaching for as long as he did there. Also I believe that the student was probablely not the first homosexual to attend the class and others probablely handled it in an adult manner by approaching him either privately or publicly with an intellectual response or defense. I beleive that Prof. Howell should not have been fired (because he was obviously following all guidelines and laws) and that those in authority should have taken the time to investigate the incedence by interviewing present and past students and faculty members about the case before making a decision on the matter,rather than taking a reactionary, defensive approach to the matter.

EdRyan wrote on July 09, 2010 at 5:07 pm

The email was very offensive to GLBT people equating them with pederasts people having sex with animals. But I suppose that someone from the Catholic Church can claim some level of expertise on the matter of 40 year olds having sex with 10 year olds.

And where is this debate you people seem to think is involved here? This was an email sent to students just before the final exam.

Saying in class that the Catholic Church hates gay people is one thing, but this email creates a hostile learning environment that should not be tolerated.

kheff wrote on July 09, 2010 at 5:07 pm

EdRyan, are you kidding me?? The point of this class is to explain and teach the tenants of the Catholic Church. The student was pretty aware of that, or at least should have been given the title of the class! The professor never said in class that the Catholic Church hates gay people (nor does the Church hate gays, in fact), but you clearly just want to write an inflammatory post. The professor's email does not say anything insulting to GLBT people, but it does explain why natural law is opposed to homosexual acts or acts of bestiality or any other sexual act that is not natural -- and argue as you will, they are not natural according to human natural law, but are tolerated according to current social standards.

And in regard to your sweet little dig about the Catholic Church and a 40 year old having sex with a 10 year old (although your wording is terrible, I presume you are referring to sex abuse), the Church no more condones such a thing than a school or a scout troop or any other similar group would condone the same thing just because a member had done so. A person doing something does not mean the organization supports it. But then you already know that. Bringing up such an insult is in no way pertinent to this professor, the email, or the discussion.

Just because you are offended that natural law excludes homosexual acts does not mean this professor is wrong for teaching it as a part of the Catholic faith in a class on Catholicism.

EdRyan wrote on July 10, 2010 at 7:07 am

GLBT people have seen enough of this equating gay people with pederasts and bestiality by R. Catholics ranting against us. These are clearly code words. He might just as well have said "God Hates Fags" because that is exactly the meaning of his rant. To a GLBT person, the language this clown used is exactly equivalent to refering to an African-American person by the "N" word.

As to the Catholic Church and child sexual abuse, perhaps you have failed to notice what has been going on around the U.S. and the rest of the world the last few years, eh? Where exactly in the world has the Catholic Church not been covering up thousands of instances of child sexual abuse and protecting the abusers?

There are as many concepts of natural law theory as there are philosophers. The Catholic Church has a version as do others. Teaching a theory that students in the class don't buy is fine, but teaching in in a manner using such inflamatory language to some students and members of the student body is not.

kheff wrote on July 10, 2010 at 10:07 am

The professor went to great lengths to separate the homosexual person from the homosexual act.. He was in no way disrespectful or insulting to a group of people. He did his job, which is to explain the teachings of the Church. And he did it in a respectful and academic manner. If you have a problem here, it is with the Church's teaching, not with the professor who explained the teaching. Your disagreeing with the email because he says the action is wrong does not make him wrong.

If you can relate the sexual abuse scandal to this particular professor, that's one thing. But you can't. To just bring it up to throw stones is ridiculous. It is in no way pertinent to this professor or to the article.

You're right that others may view natural law differently. But this professor was not teaching all interpretations of natural law. He taught the Catholic understanding of it in a course on Catholicism, and he did not teach it in an inflammatory manner or with inflammatory language. If you read his email objectively -- whether you agree with it or not -- you surely can't find it inflammatory. If he sent it to the entire student body, then perhaps it would be offensive since it would not serve a purpose. Sending it to the students in his class who are learning Catholic interpretation of moral law for the class on Catholicism -- uh, no.

RD wrote on July 09, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I'm a Newman alum. I've never met Dr. Ken. But what I do know is that Newman touts itself to be the world epicenter of Catholocism. I get their mailings such as the Catholic Illini and they come across as being more Catholic than the Pope! Fine. I guess I've been fooled all these years because I actually believed them. Not anymore. The University of Illinois fired him for teaching the positions of the Church regarding homosexuality. Then the Newman Center fired him which is a silent statement that they agree and side with the University. Newman when you fired Dr. Ken you sold out. If you are truly "Catholic" you would be defending Dr. Ken right now. To the University, to the media, to the students etc. but what I can see you have done no such thing. Sad

illiniearl wrote on July 10, 2010 at 12:07 am

Double standard at the U of I, why didn't they fire Professor Kaufmann for his anti-Chief hate rhetoric?

Edward6 wrote on July 10, 2010 at 9:07 am

This reminds me of the story of the Emporer's new clothes where the university wants everyone to remain ignorant. The professor was simply pointing out the obvious that an entire species that is homosexual is not natural and therefore cannot procreate and will perish. The professor probably just thought of this fact as self evident. The real question is this university in the business of promoting higher learning or more interested in political correctness.

Philo49 wrote on July 12, 2010 at 7:07 am

An entire species that is celibate cannot procreate and will perish. Is the test of "naturalness" in the supposedly morally relevant sense of that term whether the behavior is such that if people universally engaged only in that behavior, the species would survive? By that criterion, bi-sexuality passes, celibacy fails.

Tony wrote on July 10, 2010 at 11:07 am

Double standard at the U of I, why didn't they fire Professor Boyle for his anti-Israel hate rhetoric?

increvable wrote on July 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Why the Department of Religion believes it can afford to reject a free adjunct instructor is beyond me. Howell's argument is pretty poor, but it reflects Catholic doctrine and is certainly not worthy of censure, much less firing. If a student doesn't agree or finds it offensive, as I do, then make that argument in your exam!

cyberties wrote on July 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Given the PC climate that has inveigled itself into the University of Illinois adminstration and campus culture, one can only wonder how Mr. McKim would deal with it if a similar complaint were lodged against an adjunct professor teaching an Introductory Course on Sharia Law. Islam holds a similar, if not more stringent, position on homosexuality even if it's not based on the same theoretical argument relative to Natural Moral Law.

It seems these days that you can mock, denigrate, and caricature Jesus, Christians, or the Christian faith itself, and there is no hue and cry from the same self-righteous and smug intellectuals who decry even the slightest critique of Islamic tenets.

Yeah, that's the academic freedom I came to cherish when I matriculated at the U of I.

PC police run amok.

narciblog wrote on July 11, 2010 at 10:07 am

It sounds to me like someone has fatwa envy.

I, for one, have heard a *lot* of intellectuals criticize misogynistic, homophobic, and violent teachings when it comes to Islam. If you can find a similar lecturer at UIUC that is evangelizing the homophobic teachings of Islam, let's hear about it.

Greg wrote on July 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm

May God bless Dr. Howell for teaching the truth of our Catholic faith! A faithfull Catholic accepts all the teachings of the Church and just not to pick and choose to fit thier life style. The Church explains all these teaching thru the Catechism and Church documents.We are called out of Love and true charity to love the sinner and hate the sin. It is easier for people to justify their bad behavior than to change it.If you want to get to Heaven confess your sins,keep close to Sacraments of the Church, be a good example in Christ. Be a Saint not a bad example! Thank you Dr. Howell!

kagni wrote on July 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm

The whole argument comes down to the paragraph below where Dr Howell out of the blue declares what is REAL, or what "fits". And the best proof it's so is that he says so ?? If this is what he considers teaching students to think for themselves, then the University should have let him go long ago.

"But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML 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. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act. "

kheff wrote on July 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

He declared nothing "out of the blue." Put the email in context -- nearly an entire semester of class behind it. This email alone wasn't meant to encompass every discussion of a semester of a course. It's just all you've read from the course. And the proof behind it is not that he says it's so, but that he's teaching a course on the subject of Catholicism, and this is the Church's conclusion. What else is he supposed to teach in a course on the Catholic faith?

kagni wrote on July 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

If Dr Howell said "Church says that this is reality" he would be teaching. But he says "This is reality" and this is preaching.

kheff wrote on July 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm

So every statement he makes should begin with "The Church says"? Wow.

kagni wrote on July 11, 2010 at 12:07 am

The letter from the instructor ends with a statement that Catholic morality is based on correct understanding of the world: "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."
This has two faults as far as classroom teaching goes:
1. given that there is no logical argument leading to this conclusion, it is faulty teaching.
2. It is not teaching ABOUT Catholic thought but a declaration of correctness of Catholic thought. What if it were a course on another religion that promotes different morality as "natural morality law" - including things you consider immoral and repugnant - and if the instructor stated "XXXX don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality."

kheff wrote on July 11, 2010 at 8:07 am

I think signing up for the class in the first place indicates you are going to get a dose of that religion's belief system. I don't think most people would cry over that.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm

For starters, he could actually study what utilitarianism actually is before discussing it and know a thing or two about homosexuality before he decides to go on and on about it so ignorantly (and laughably).

SunshineSue wrote on July 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm

In all fairness, the student who "reported" Ken Howell and the student who remains "anonymous" (should he be called "The Wimp"?) should have been kicked out of the school for "hate speech" towards Catholics.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm

They said nothing hateful about Catholics. In the classroom, a professor has power over students. Howell's comments are so deeply offensive to gays that it does not surprise me that the student would be afraid. That's not being wimpy. That's being realistic. If you're gay and the person grading you is an obvious homophobe, why would you speak up? No professor should behave the way Howell did. He is a disgrace to the profession.

SuzyCCC wrote on July 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm

By the time students reach college, they are considered adults in most states. Reading the emails, it is impossible for all but the most myopically sensitive readers to see anything but a statement of Catholic teaching from Howell, and nothing but overstating from the student. I think an adult making an accusation like this should stand up and make himself known. The accusation is 3rd hand, and the evidence does not support it. If I were an attorney, I'd beg Howell to let me have his case.

And the first thing I would prove in court through testimony would be that these two students who were "raised Catholic" and "didn't go to Notre Dame for a reason" knew exactly what they were signing up for, expected an easy A, didn't get it, and are now shooting the messenger.

Darth Vader wrote on July 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm

It is clear from the last two paragraphs of his email that Howell has passed from description (of Catholic doctrine) to advocacy. The question for me is, Is this acceptable behavior by a classroom instructor? Frankly, I'm not sure.

What bothers me most about his description of "Natural Moral Law" is that he doesn't question what is "natural". For example, many primates practice prostitution (exchange of sex for food), but I seriously doubt that Howell would take this to mean that prostitution is moral.

kheff wrote on July 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

His description of Natural Moral Law in the email is essentially a summary of what was discussed in the class. He can't very well reproduce stacks of documents written by Church philosophers and theologians in an email, but he can remind the students of the basics of what was discussed in class or in their readings. Read more about "Natural Moral Law" and you will find that it is not synonymous with "anything that occurs in any animal in nature." But there are tons of documents on the subject. A decent professor of religion can't just present a theory without explaining why the Church advocates such a theory. So the last part that explains why the theory makes sense is sort of essential to understanding why the Church embraces it. I doubt anyone would have read the email if he included hundreds of pages further explaining Natural Moral Law.

Darth Vader wrote on July 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

In his email, Howell finds the space to critique utilitarian morality. There is no similar critique of NML. Surely, if he's "teaching, not preaching" (as another poster put it), he would have made a more balanced presentation. "Stacks of documents" are not required.

If you think that Howell is simply a teacher (not an advocate) please reread his last two sentences:

Catholics don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.

He is saying that natural moral reality is not a religious doctrine but an actual description of the world. In his view, those who disagree are wrong. If that's not advocacy, I don't know what is.

kheff wrote on July 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Advocating what you teach is not a crime, nor is it against University policy. That, and what he says is an accurate description of Church views.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Researching your topic is an absolute must in academia. Howell obviously did no research on his topic. He shouldn't be "teaching" stuff he knows nothing about. That's not exactly a crime, but it's a great disservice to his students and the university.

THEODOUS wrote on July 11, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Let's see - oh my alma mater - we hire within the U of I system, enable, and give awards to a "suspected" criminal ( off on technicality ), attempted murderer, and unrepentant terrorist like Willy Ayers, but fire a good catholic for teaching what good catholics believe in a course stating that is what it is going to teach. How come no one is offended by a guy who wishes he had read the bomb making manual a little better so he didn't blow up his friends instead of our military and government officials !! So if a straight kid purposely signs up for the Lesbian studies class and then says he is offended, does the lesbian get canned too ????

bevo wrote on July 12, 2010 at 7:07 am

Robert McKim should be fired as department chair for a lack of managerial competence and leadership. His action reinforce the perverse notion of student as consumer. If the consumer (student) is offended or does not like something, then the consumer (student) should receive immediate and satisfactory redress. This notion bastardizes the purpose and intent of education especially at the collegiate level. McKim should know better. His action belies his ignorance of the purpose and intent of education. Thus, he should be fired as department chair for his shameful behavior.

The anonymous student who received the e-mail should be encouraged to leave the university. This student refuses to accept the yoke of responsibility for intellectual rigor and challenge that higher education should demand from its student. This student's behavior shows a lack of acceptance and perhaps maturity. Thus, this student belongs at an institution that does not require such responsibility and maturity.

Internally, the student who forwarded the complaint should be brought up on academic charges. Externally, this student should be investigated for making defamatory comments. The student's e-mail is reprehensible. Further, this student involved themselves in a situation that did not concern him or her. This student needs to learn the lesson of "not my pig, not my farm."

Finally, UIUC's failure to investigate this matter lowers its place as a world class institution. Either UIUC stands either (1) for an education that offers intellectual rigor and demands intellectual honesty from its students, or (2) for a credentialling service where consumers receive a certificate because they completed certain workshops or classes.

Janet wrote on July 12, 2010 at 8:07 am

Bevo: Right on. I personally wouldn't suggest quite the same final outcomes, but no matter. Students are no longer students, they are consumers, and professors are service providers. Blech.

peabody wrote on July 12, 2010 at 11:07 am

Let's remember that the student was complaining about an entire semester of behavior by the professor, not just this single email. May I suggest to all the outraged readers that perhaps this single email doesn't grant us the full picture of what went on in this class. Frankly I thought the email ranged a little creepy. Why couldn't he have discussed teenagers on either side of the age of legal consent instead of summoning the image of adults seducing children? Why was the image of a man-dog relationship even necessary, when he's already broached the topic of flawed consent? Why is it necessary to summon graphic images of homosexual acts when you can simply state that male-female sexual relations are more complementary? This email didn't say much, but it indicates that he's accustomed to talking about subjects in a manner that's bound to raise some hackles, and unnecessarily so. Does it indicate an outside agenda? Maybe.

Riley wrote on July 13, 2010 at 9:07 am

I am for the Dr. What have we become? I saw nothing hateful only truthful in his Email. I am the mom of a person with gender disorder. I wish more people would speak the truth to my kid. I believe the U.S Goverment,and the APA, is guilty of child abuse by promoting this life style that causes so much pain.As far as the university goes appolagize to the Dr. you need good people like him. Most of America has a blind eye to this issue,because it doesnt affect them. Wake up America. This is going to blow up in all of our faces. Kids in kindergarden dont need men in dresses teaching them about sex education. That sounds far fetched ,but is very close to becoming a reality. Catholics and other religions are confusing people more. Quit being wish washhy on the subject. God is not going to reward us for lying to our children. Please stand up and say the truth. Homosexuality will never be normal and right. I just keep loving my kid and hoping that my country will love her too!

ACES09 wrote on July 13, 2010 at 9:07 am

A lot of other posters have touched on this, but there are many more professors that would be fired if this was a legitimate basis for dismissal. I'll admit I don't have all the facts, but no matter how one student took it, it seems Dr. Howell was merely explaining the Catholic Church's views on moral law as it relates to homosexuality. If you think you're going to be offended by the presentation of the Catholic Church's views on morality, don't take a class on Catholicism. In many classes at UI, mainly in humanities departments, it's routine for ultraliberal professors to force their views on students. That's not just explaining them, but explicitly saying "I'm right, and if you disagree, you're wrong", and grading papers, tests, etc., based on whether your opinions agree with the professor's. But I've never heard of a humanities professor being disciplined for it. I know there's more to this story than can be reported in a few newspaper articles, but as a UI alum, I'm embarrassed by what looks to be a blatant violation of academic freedom.

LAS89 wrote on July 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I remember hearing a university is a place for the exposure to unpopular views. Obviously, only if the ideas are "correct". Dr. Howell was hired to instruct on the views of Catholicism, and fired for doing just that. I took an Animal Behavior class at UIUC in 1989, and the professor MOCKED Creationists: "With all the evidence for Evolution, how can anyone believe in Creation?" He then laughed. I was truly offended at his attacking my religion. Now, if I had made a formal complaint, would he be sanctioned in the same manner? I have a sneaking So sad.

I wonder if anyone there is educating on Sharia law, and if so, do they face the same restrictions?

Paul H wrote on July 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Regarding the question at the end of your post, the following is from

RLST 480/LAW 792 Islamic Law (Khalil)
This course will introduce students to Islamic legal philosophy and the historical evolution of Islamic legal and jurisprudential systems. We will begin by studying the origins, nature, sources, and interpretive methodologies of classical Islamic law, and the main institution for upholding this law, the madhhab, or school of law, examining its development from the formative to the post-formative periods and highlighting important controversies generated along the way. We will then look at the early encounter of Islamic law with modernity. This will be followed by an exploration of several contemporary topics that have served as catalysts for new tensions and alternative approaches and interpretive theories. (3 undergraduate/law credits; 4 graduate credits)

As to the second part of your question, I have no information on whether the same restrictions apply. :-)

mandy wrote on July 13, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Dr.Howell's academic freedom is not the issue here. It is that he has abused it by using the classroom to advocate his beliefs. Why should someone from the Catholic Newman Center have the right to use the university classroom to spout off Catholic dogma? Has anyone look at the stuff that he writes? Can other professors get away with this kind of BS? I am surprised that he has been allowed to teach at the University for 9 years.

kheff wrote on July 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Because it's his JOB to "spout off Catholic dogma." That was the whole point of the class. How can you teach a class on Catholicism if you don't teach about Catholicism. How did you miss that?

mandy wrote on July 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

If what you say is true, then he really should be fired. A public funded university should not tolerate this kind of teaching. There is a fine line between teaching about Catholicism and advocating Catholicism. Dr.Howell crossed that line. His-mail is proof of that.

Kayla wrote on July 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Is there a fine line between teaching psychology and advocating it? Is there a fine line between teaching evolution and advocating it? It seems that in a course covering a particular topic, it works to have a professor who also advocates what he is teaching. This class was about Catholicism. Public university or not, the course was offered by the University and is on religion. Students aren't required to enroll in it. Unlike a high school, you pick your courses in college, and the University can have religious topics and other topics some find questionable. There is a queer studies major at UIUC. Does that major also offend you since it's supported by tax dollars as well? Regardless, you can't take away his right to free speech, and the Supreme Court has said professors do have a right to free speech in a classroom.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Kayla, psychology is the study of the human mind. If you are human, you have a mind. Catholicism is a dogma. It's a set of beliefs set forth mostly by white men for the benefit of said white men (and to the detriment of women and gays). You can't advocate for psychology the same way you advocate for a religion. Biologists "advocate" for evolution because evolution is real. If you don't accept that basic premise, you can't even do biology. That's like saying you're a mathematician who doesn't believe in zero. No can do! I'm not offended by a class on Catholicism or a class on Queer studies (although I'd bet there's a lot more fact than fiction in the Queer studies course and a lot more fiction than fact in the Catholicism course). Professors have academic freedom. But they also have to be academically competent. The nonsense Howell wrote in his email message is academically incompetent. He should not be rehired for that reason alone.

Kayla wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

The point, in case you missed it, is that a professor should be able to advocate for what he teaches. Why teach it if you don't believe it? Plenty of people believe that psychology is not a real science. Plenty of people in that field mock each other’s findings. Would you like someone teaching a psych class while rolling their eyes and arguing against what they are supposed to be teaching? Or even presenting it “fairly” but unable to explain the reasoning behind it since they disagree with what they are teaching? Plenty of people disagree with evolution. Would you like one of those professors teaching a class on the topic? Probably not.

Dr. Howell is a well-respected theologian with an enormous list of academic degrees, professional titles, published articles and books, and awards. You might not agree with his email, but that doesn't make him incompetent. You clearly disagree with the Catholic faith and feel very free in your criticism of that faith. Presenting something that is accurate to Catholic teaching does not make Dr. Howell incompetent. It makes him an academic who accurately presents something that you disagree with.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

No, a professor cannot simply advocate for anything that comes into his/her fancy. We have to prove things with reasonable arguments, facts, research, empirical evidence. There has to be some form of proof we can point to. Howell's email is a bunch of incoherent sentences strung together without rhyme or reason. He presents things as facts that are utter nonsense. Academia is not about a bunch of people spouting whatever opinion comes into their head. It's about the search for the truth through reason, research, argumentation, and discussion. Howell decided what the truth was, then wrote about it in a ridiculous fashion, taking care to completely misrepresent all the facts that contradict his truth. That's poor scholarship, no matter how you slice it.

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Yawn. Professors have a right to free speech in the classroom to advocate what they are teaching, and their rights are protected and have been upheld by the Supreme Court over and over. You don't have to agree -- and you clearly don't -- but those who have the authority and judicial intelligence to rule on the matter already have repeatedly, both at the state and federal court levels.

maybeastudent wrote on July 13, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Never mind what exactly happened. All this is about is an endless tug-o-war of "who has more freedom" between conservatives and liberals. Fact is, everyone has equal freedoms. Therefore, people shouldn't be censored one way or another. The teacher can say what he wants and the student can do the same. Unless there were explicit hate remarks and none of this "The Church says this," let's all be adults, here. Look, if the Church really says something, and the course is about that, then the students had the opportunity to consent to hearing what the Church has to say. The professor can say what the Church says any way he wants. If, in fact, the Church didn't say what he says it does, or if, in fact, he is crossing the line, all someone has to do is say "You're wrong. The Church doesn't say this." But, truth be told, he seems to be explaining the Church's position accurately, albeit creatively, and therefore, rightly.

As far as the University's response. I believe it was a premature decision. Don't think I'm advocating for whatever the teacher is accused of doing, but I'm just saying that a more proper inquiry should have been assessed before this happened.

Seriously though, do people think UIUC is so unique that this is the only places stuff like this happens? And when it does, it makes headlines? You don't see professors getting fired left and right from here and there. Yes, I'm a college student (not here) and I've had my share of weirdo professors, but legally, none of them did anything wrong. Things like this aren't meant to become news because all they are are a small drop in the bucket and it really just emphasizes a lack of administrative competency and true maturity from the top down.

The University really should create a review board for situations like these so a decision is made after a through inquiry. And perhaps the student should have had the humility to take it in stride because, yes, there will be people in life who will disagree with you and college is no different! And he should rest assured in the fact that the WHOLE rest of the school agrees with him and not be such a button pusher as to drive himself and the University into regional (at least) limelight. It's really horrid press, especially atop of all the budget issues. Man, are people over there sleeping? Maybe it's the heat.

Origin wrote on July 14, 2010 at 4:07 pm

After reading the article and some of the comments below, I feel that I must give my own opinion. Unlike everyone else who has reported or commented on this story, I was actually in the aforementioned class with Dr. Howell. As such, regardless of what anyone may have read or heard, they weren't in the class and so in essence don't really know what they're talking about. The truth is that whatever the reason for it, I'm glad that Dr. Howell was released. I am completely clueless as to how Dr. Howell was recognized for excellent teaching in that he was a horrendous teacher with a style of teaching that is at odds with the necessities of a University class. The class felt less like a class and more like a Catholic revival camp. Like the student in the article, I also complained to the department via ICES form (Instructor and Course Evaluation System, feedback given by students to the department rating classes and teachers' performances at the conclusion of the semester) citing his lack of objectivity and consideration for alternative viewpoints. If anything I think I was too kind to him in my evaluation.

Two years ago I took a class at UIUC called Introduction to Islam to fulfill a University requirement. The professor in that class was enlightening, gracious, and entirely objective (3 qualities not possessed by Dr. Howell) even though he was a practicing Muslim. I strongly disagreed with many of the positions advocated by said Muslim professor but was able to do so in a courteous and balanced manner. After seeing how a religion class is supposed to function I can confidently say, without giving my personal beliefs any weight, that Dr. Howell's class was severely lacking. There's a line between an academic objective presentation of material and an injection of personal vitriol, a line which Dr. Howell saw fit to not only cross but leap over on every occasion. The real question shouldn't be why he was let go, but instead why the University took so long to do so.

Disclaimer: Lest you think I'm a bitter ex-student who is criticizing a teacher who graded him poorly, I did receive an A in the class.

Kayla wrote on July 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I also took the class, and I completely disagree with you. Having taken four other religion classes at UIUC, I have to say that the best ones are by the teachers who can explain the why behind a religion's beliefs, not just what the beliefs are. I found Dr. Howell's teaching style to be gracious, respectful, and insightful. He's been recognized for excellent teaching because he IS an excellent teacher. I do not believe that Dr. Howell crossed any lines. There were some belligerent, disrespectful students in there, but he remained respectful and professional. He made some people mad because they didn't agree with the Catholic teachings, but they couldn't make a good argument. I learned a lot and thought it was an excellent class. I would have liked to take his other course. And I also received an A in his class.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Judging from what you've said in other posts, it's clear that Howell confirmed for you beliefs you already had. That, in a sense, leads me to believe that what the student complaining about him said he did is what he actually did. Education isn't really about having all of your a priori prejudices validated. It's about challenging all the beliefs and ideas you come with to the classroom. If your beliefs are right, they'll withstand the scrutiny. If they're wrong, dump them. What Howell says in his email message is deeply wrong on so many levels. Forget the homophobia. He doesn't even know what utilitarianism is.

Kayla wrote on July 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Actually, I came to Dr. Howell's class as a rather anti-Catholic Protestant, having been raised with a great deal of prejudice against the Church. I learned a lot. So it can't be "clear" that he "confirmed" beliefs I already had, given that I disagreed with him, but that's beside the point. You're right that education isn't about having prior prejudices validated. Dr. Howell's class taught me a lot that ran against what I believed, and I respect his beliefs and appreciate what I learned. Does that make him a poor teacher? Not at all. I appreciate what I learned, whether I embrace everything or not.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

You have clearly been indoctrinated into Christian beliefs (Protestant and Catholic, especially of the fundamentalist kind, are not really that different) and homophobic beliefs, and Howell's class confirmed and validated those beliefs. I don't think you're a hopeless cause. Homophobia is a disease, but it can be cured with a little knowledge. I know that Howell's class didn't provide that knowledge, but you can still acquire it somewhere along the way.

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

See above post. Wow, arguing with you is really getting boring. You don't have much to say other than that everyone else is wrong. You also seem to think that you're very liberated and open-minded. Guess you'll tolerate anyone -- if they agree with you. You're so "tolerant" that you're intolerant of those who disagree with you. They couldn't possibly have good reasons to see things differently from you, right? Disagreeing with you means people are blinded, ignorant, and unenlightened, not that they have a well thought-out set of opinions and beliefs. That's just not possible because you're infallible, right? So you accuse others of hate, mental illness, or whatever else you can think of to insult. But I can throw that back to you -- some day you can be cured of your intolerance. It just takes work.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 6:07 am

You see, Kayla, I am a professor. You absolutely refuse to accept anything I say as being in any way valid. This leads me to believe that, if I were your professor, you would absolutely reject anything I had to say. Yet you defend Howell wholeheartedly. This tells me many things. Howell was indoctrinating his students into believing the things you already believe, and you were cool with that. If he had been saying the exact opposite things of what he was saying, you would not have been cool with that. If anything, you have confirmed that Howell was indeed indoctrinating, not teaching.

I hope never to be cured of my intolerance toward prejudice and hatred, but thanks for the offer anyhow. Like I said before, with any luck you'll be blessed with a gay child and you'll recognize the error of your ways.

Kayla wrote on July 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

I could say the same thing -- you absolutely refuse to accept anything I say as being in any way valid. You have basically said that I am homophobic, unenlightened, and insinuated that you are a beacon of wisdom. If you are a professor, as you say, you must be the most closed-minded, self-important professor on your campus. Being open-minded, I found a lot of my previously held notions changed by Dr. Howell's class. You, however, seem so stuck in your ways that you are tolerant only of your own intolerant viewpoints. That's very sad. This discussion has come to the point where it's so off topic and circular -- you just keep throwing insults. I must for pity's sake let you off the hook, as you are clearly unarmed with anything other than your own prejudice and name-calling. You can't even argue with facts, research, or anything other than insults and your own opinion as your evidence. You've lost all credibility.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Being in Howell's class, as you say, you think you know something about utilitarianism, homosexuality, and Catholic thought. The truth is that, fortunately, Catholics are not as closed-minded as Howell, utilitarianism has nothing to do with what Howell said, and Howell has no clue about what homosexualuty is or how it is practiced. If you will not accept those facts, you are unwilling to learn.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I say that homophobia is a disease (which should be obvious to anyone watching the amount of time and energy homophobes spend denouncing homosexuality) and that it can be cured because I was cured of it, as were most of my friends and family. Believe me, 99.99% of what homophobes say about homosexuality is dead wrong. And the obsessive nature of homophobia is not good for the soul. I, like you, was indoctrinated in homophobia. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. I overcame my illness and I am now happy and well adjusted.

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

You've mentioned "surviving" Catholic school a couple of times. Funny thing is, that doesn't prove you know anything about the Catholic faith. Most of your posts prove quite the opposite. I didn't know much about Catholicism even a year ago, and I know most of what you're saying is crap. (Besides, how many 12th graders are experts on anything? Especially a kid who harbors animosity toward what he is being taught. I know plenty of Catholic kids who can't even recite the Ten Commandments. Pathetic.) So saying you know Catholicism because you went to Catholic school is like saying I know all about Nigerian culture because I visited there.

The Catholic Church is not homophobic, as you seem to insist. There's a difference between being "homophobic" and simply believing that homosexual acts are immoral. If you can't see that, you are really, really blinded by something -- intolerance, ignorance, or just plain hate. I'm not sure what it is. You can accept a person without believing everything they do is right. You just can't seem to accept that fact.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 6:07 am

The Catholic church is homophobic, paternalistic, patriarchal, sexist, hypocritical, misogynistic, anti-natural, and just plain stupid. Just this past week they had an edict saying it was "immoral" for women to be priests. Not anti-traditional. Not contrary to church practice. Immoral. Why any self-respecting woman would still proclaim her catholicism is beyond me. The Catholic church clings to deeply immoral political leaders like Berlusconi while condemning anti-Catholic but very moral leaders like Zapatero in Spain. The Catholic church has become a joke. They come up with excuses to justify the pedophilia practiced by Catholic priests and still expect to be taken seriously on matters of morality. In the US, the Catholic church has become little more than a branch of the Republcan party. They are a disgrace. The reason I am against the Catholic church has everything to do with the rot the Catholic church has become.

Kayla wrote on July 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

Funny you say that. In essence, "I disagree with the Catholic Church because they're stupid." How mature. Actually, you clearly don't understand the Church. And how funny that you say they're a bunch of Republicans when most of them actually vote Democratic. Now I see you are actually just anti-Catholic and anti-Republican. Typical liberal blathering.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

No, Kayla, I disagree with the church because they are full of it. The Catholic church, whether you realize it or not, has lost all reasons to be respected because of its own actions. If people calling themselves Catholics vote more Democratic than Republican, its because of the fact that what the Catholic hierarchy says has no relation to reality. The Catholic hierarchy most definitely said last week it was immoral for women to be priests. If you're okay with that, you have no real sense of morality. Neither does the Catholic church. It's a sexist, paternalistic, patriarchal, homophobic institution. It's worthless in the 21st century.

Les Reid wrote on July 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I am not surprised that Howell was let go. He seems to have a very poor grasp of moral reasoning, probably in inverse proportion to the strength of his Catholic faith. He denounces homosexuals as immoral because same-sex relations are "unnatural". Likewise, following orthodox Catholic dogma, he denounces contraception as "unnatural".

But what would a totally "natural" way of life be like? No knife and fork - eat with your hands. No clothes - naked as nature intended. No trains, planes or automobiles - these feet were made for walking. No cultivation or farming - let nature have its way. In short, we were better off living in caves and feeding on berries.

Howell's arguments to base morality on nature are quite fatuous and would be merely laughable, were it not for the despicable prejudice against gays and lesbians that they support. I am not surprised that students objected to his style of teaching, nor am I surprised that that university has decided not to continue employing him. He is not up to the job.

Kayla wrote on July 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

His reasoning is based on natural moral law, not just whatever is natural. He based it on the Catholic Church's beliefs, not just his own ideas and arguments. He has an excellent grasp of moral reasoning because he was teaching not his own concoction, but the belief system of the Church. Your argument about what is "natural" isn't even relevant to NML. You're talking about something entirely different and then getting offended by your thought process. You said, "Howell's arguments to base morality on nature are quite fatuous and would be merely laughable . . ." but he's not basing it on "nature." Your conclusion is laughable. You missed the whole point.

JNC wrote on July 15, 2010 at 2:07 am

Howell is a very weak thinker (as I noted in my post). His reasoning is very easily refuted. You are right that he bases his arguments on the beliefs of the church, but therein lies the problem. Catholicism is a faith. The nature of faith is to believe things that are unseen, unprovable, and often contrary to actual evidence.

You are wrong that Howell does not think he's talking about nature. He does have nature all wrong, but he definitely thinks he knows what is and is not natural. That's the whole crux of his argument. Look at this quote from his email message:

"But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML 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. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act."

He's completely wrong because: a. Homosexuality is just as natural and real as heterosexuality (it exists throughout the animal kingdom and has existed among humans for as long as there have been humans); b. No two people are interchangeable, no matter what their gender; c. Sex is not practiced solely to procreate; there is also a pleasure component that Howell doesn't seem to know about; d. Men and women are not actually complementary. Tradition would like to shape men and women into that, but men and women are really more alike than different, so they are in no way opposites that complement each other; e. Gender roles are learned, not natural. This completely debunks Howell's premise.

Kayla wrote on July 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Dr. Howell has researched and written extensively on this topic. You might not agree with him, but to state that he doesn't know what he's talking about -- and to imply that you do -- is unconvincing and presumptuous.

You are still confusing natural moral law with, as someone else pointed out in another post, "all things that happen in nature." Not the same thing at all. Something that exists in the animal kingdom, like fish eating their young, does not make it natural for human beings. And to your "C," you clearly don't know the Catholic (and this is a course in Catholicism) teaching that sex is both a unitive and a procreative act, and you can't separate them. While procreation doesn't always occur, removing the aspect from the act entirely is denying the meaning of the act. (And before you shoot back that that would mean sex after menopause or in other times of natural infertility would then be wrong, no. The Church already thought of that and answered those issues. But Dr. Howell didn't need to cover all of that in his email because it was BASED ON A CLASS DISCUSSION, not for the purpose of explaining every aspect of the Church's beliefs to an international crowd not even in his class.)

D. Men and women are complementary, and research has explained that the androgynous view of childrearing and looking at people over the last few decades is erroneous.

E. Gender roles are not learned; they are natural. Look at the research over the last decade that tells us the idea of gender is programmed by nurture is totally false. While some people continue to cling to the notion, psychologists, doctors, and researchers over the last years have found it to be ridiculous. Guess Dr. Howell's premise is supported by current research. But then he's an expert in his field, so that's not a shock.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 6:07 pm

"Dr. Howell has researched and written extensively on this topic. You might not agree with him, but to state that he doesn't know what he's talking about -- and to imply that you do -- is unconvincing and presumptuous."
- Believe me, I have done a lot more research on gender and sexuality than Howell has. And unlike Howell, when I write about the topic I base it on evidence derived from research, not something a nameless physician told me.

"You are still confusing natural moral law with, as someone else pointed out in another post, "all things that happen in nature."
- No, I am saying that Howell thinks he knows what is natural and real. For heaven's sake, he even capitalizes the two words: REAL and NATURE.

" you clearly don't know the Catholic (and this is a course in Catholicism) teaching that sex is both a unitive and a procreative act, and you can't separate them."
- Having survived 12 years of Catholic schooling, believe me, I know all the nonsense the Catholic church teaches about sexuality. Why anyone would still think the Catholic church a good source of information on sex is beyond me. Thankfully, most Catholics don't practice what the church teaches about sex. There's a reason for that. It's stupid nonsense.
"The Church already thought of that and answered those issues."
- Yeah, the church is really good at covering its ass after the fact. The things that the Catholic church has thought of are precisely the reasons why I am no longer a Catholic.

"But Dr. Howell didn't need to cover all of that in his email because it was BASED ON A CLASS DISCUSSION, not for the purpose of explaining every aspect of the Church's beliefs to an international crowd not even in his class.)"
- Howell didn't need to cover any of what he wrote unless his purpose was to show how ignorant he is on those subjects.
"D. Men and women are complementary, and research has explained that the androgynous view of childrearing and looking at people over the last few decades is erroneous."
- ???? I study that field, and I can tell you that you are completely wrong. In fact, all of us are to a degree androgynous, whether we like it or not. Why? Because traits that are really human have arbitrarily been labeled female or male. Boys don't cry? Well, in fact they do. And their penises won't fall off because of it. Girls are passive? I know plenty of parents who will quarrel with you on that. Being psychologically complementary does not depend on being of the opposite sex. There are plenty of men with whom you would not be complementary and plenty of women with whom you would. Howell's entire argument here is fictional.
"E. Gender roles are not learned; they are natural. Look at the research over the last decade that tells us the idea of gender is programmed by nurture is totally false. While some people continue to cling to the notion, psychologists, doctors, and researchers over the last years have found it to be ridiculous. Guess Dr. Howell's premise is supported by current research. But then he's an expert in his field, so that's not a shock."
- If Howell is an expert in his field, I have no idea what field he's in. He's clearly not an expert in any of the things he writes about in his email message. You obviously don't know that in the actual research on gender and sexuality we always refer to both precisely because they are two different things. We never use the two terms interchangeably, because they are not interchangeable. They do not mean the same thing. Sex is what you're born with. Gender is what you acquire after the fact based on social norms. That's what the term means. The only research you can possibly be referring to has to come from religious studies, but that's wholly suspect because it's conducted to come to a predetermined outcome - the position held by the church. That's not empirically sound.

Kayla wrote on July 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm

If you are so competent in the field of psychology, then surely you are familiar with research by Sandra Witelson, Louann Brizendine, Michaell Gurian, Kathy Stevens, E. B. McClure, and many more in the last decade who have said that viewing gender as disassociated from sex and as something that is primarily caused by nurture is completely ridiculous.

You say, "You obviously don't know that in the actual research on gender and sexuality we always refer to both precisely because they are two different things." Not sure what gives you that impression.

You also say, "Gender is what you acquire after the fact based on social norms." As the researchers mentioned above have written, that is false. And their research is not based on religious studies, but on scientific studies. Some of them are probably religious people, but I don't know if they are or think that would matter. You could add Dr. James Dobson to that list as someone who writes about the topic and has earned respect for his research and writing on gender, but I wouldn't call him a scientist in the same way as the rest of them. But I don't think being religious makes them incapable of studying science or conducting scientific studies.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Ohhhh! You tipped your hand, Kayla! Dobson? Please! You are relying on a bunch of right-wing people with an agenda. Nobody in the field can possibly take seriously anything Dobson says. He's obsessed, consumed, impregnated with his homophobia. He is his homophobia. The people you cite are exactly the kind of people who conduct research so that it confirms their pre-established conclusions. Let me pull a Howell on you. The people you cited are EXACTLY the kind of people who conduct research so that it confirms their pre-established BIASES. A word of advice: in the future do not simply accept that one researcher or even a handful of researchers have established once and for all that X, Y or Z is true. That's simply not the way it works. And don't selectively seek out researchers who merely confirm whatever it is you already believe in. It will be better for you in the long run. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your imagination. It's not scary finding out that the world is not as you thought it was. It can actually be quite fun finding out how it really is.

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

So Dobson, who you don't like but who most of the world recognizes as an authority, is someone you feel you can criticize as someone who knows nothing? That's hilarious! A word of advice: take your own advice. You seem only to accept researchers who believe what you believe. "That's simply not the way it works." Funny you mention heaven and earth. I doubted you actually buy into the heaven thing. "It's not scary finding out that the world is not as you thought it was. It can actually be quite fun finding out how it really is." I hope you do that. Go get an education, JNC. You might find there's more out there than you currently believe. The world is not this lawless, cynical place with no moral boundaries that you think it is.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 5:07 am

Most of the world recognizes Dobson as a professional homophobe. Dobson is a deeply immoral man who makes his living off of hatred.

Kayla wrote on July 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

Haha. That's very slanted and misguided. I see you've never read Dobson. Pity.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Dobson is a fraud and a professional homophobe. Deal with it.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 5:07 am

If your point was to defend Howell, you have done a great disservice to your cause. You are praising professional homophobes. Dobson is a person who makes his living off of persecuting gays.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

After reading this from you, and knowing that you approved of what Howell was teaching, I am now convinced that the student's complaints about Howell were well founded. He was indoctrinating the class in ooga booga nonsense. Thanks for clearing that up.

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I think you're concluding whatever you want to conclude. Gee, I'm so sad that you disagree with me. Boo hoo.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

BTW, you misrepresent what some of the researchers you cite actually say.

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Really? So you've read them all and argue that they don't say that males and females are not the same? Somehow I don't think you've actually looked at their work at all. But then you don't cite anyone that still believes there is no difference between males and females. Not that it matters. We could lob researchers back and forth for eternity since there will always be researchers on both sides of the matter. But the mainstream view now is more toward a difference in genders. Not that you would know. You don't apparently know of any researchers or understand what they write about if you do read them. Not to be too critical.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 5:07 am

You have no idea what the "mainstream" view is. Don't pretend. You have your prejudices and you grab on to anything that supports them. There are lesbians and bisexual women who are extremely feminine as per the social norm of feminine. There are gay men who are extremely masculine as per the social norm of masculine. There are straight women who are extremely dikey and heterosexual men who are very feminine. The world, alas, will never fit into your narrow stereotypes. Better get used to it.

Kayla wrote on July 18, 2010 at 10:07 am

You have no researchers to cite and nothing to say again but calling me prejudice. I'm sort of feeling sorry for you now. You arguments diverge from substance to name calling when you are without a good response. That's sad.

JNC wrote on July 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

The mainstream research on gender and sexuality diverges from what you say. You don't have to take my word for it. Just look it up. Please do look it up, and don't get hung up on one "researcher" who says exactly what you want to hear.

JNC wrote on July 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Here's what people have to say about some of the people you cite:

Gurian: "a claim so unscientific it takes your breath away"
Brizendine: "incredibly crappy science"
James Dobson: "fundamentally skewed view", "the Christian right’s crusade against all things tolerant and reasonable", "a right wing demagogue"

Kayla wrote on July 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm

You can find some "people" who will criticize anyone. You don't cite anyone you're quoting here, but I guess since you're just closed-minded that's not a surprise. I cite scientists; you cite no one. You just voice your opinion. How impressive. Wow, you're to be believed as an authority. (And that's sarcasm, since you don't seem to recognize the meaning of what just about anyone is saying.)