Earlier today we received confirmation from the University of Illinois that it is reinstating Dr. Kenneth Howell as an adjuct professor this fall. The University terminated Dr. Howell’s employment earlier this summer after a student complained that he was “offended” by Dr. Howell’s academic discussion of the Catholic Church’s position on homosexual behavior in an Introduction to Catholicism course. The student was not even enrolled in the class.
In a letter to ADF, the Universitystates that Dr. Howell will be asked to teach Introduction to Catholicism this fall. This is a tremendous win for Dr. Howell’s academic freedom and First Amendment rights. However, ADF will continue to monitor the situation.
The University’s letter warns that Dr. Howell may not “violate the Constitutional principles precluding the ‘establishment of religion’ in a public university context.” It seems the University has not yet learned its lesson. No one alleged that Dr. Howell violated that principle or ever intended to. Yet the University’s warning invites viewpoint discrimination and further violations of academic freedom. The University must respect the right of faculty to speak freely in the classroom. Further, the University’s Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure intends to review the University’s actions to determine if it violated Dr. Howell’s academic freedom. We are confident the Committee will find in favor of Dr. Howell.
Dr. Howell’s reinstatement is also a resounding victory for the thousands of University students who rallied to Dr. Howell’s support through social media.