A popular professor who was barred from teaching at a US university after he explained Roman Catholic beliefs on homosexuality during a course on Catholicism has been reinstated.
Watch a CBN news report on the story
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a US-based religious liberty organisation, has supported the professor, Kenneth Howell.
David Hacker, from ADF said: “We’re extremely pleased that Dr. Howell is back in the classroom”, but added: “we’ll be watching carefully to make sure his academic freedom is protected through this ongoing process”.
After a lecture to his “Introduction to Catholicism” class Prof Howell sent an email to students encouraging each of them to approach issues about homosexuality “as a thinking adult”.
His email prompted a complaint from a friend of an anonymous student, who denounced the email as hate speech, and the University of Illinois later suspended the Professor.
Now the University has written to ADF saying Prof Howell will be able to teach in the upcoming term.
The University did say it is still carrying out an investigation and also commented that it will now begin paying the professor, who previously had been paid by the Roman Catholic Church.
One news source quoted Eli Lazar, a former student of Prof Howell’s, saying the academic’s reinstatement was “great news”, but Eli warned that it should not simply delay a further dismissal.
Speaking about Prof Howell’s case ADF Senior Counsel David French said that: “The First Amendment protects the ability of faculty to speak freely, especially when the material is of direct relevance to the class”.
Mr French added: “Professors’ careers cannot be made to stand or fall based on the emotions of intolerant, anonymous students who do not yet understand that opposing viewpoints exist within a free society”.
Recent studies have demonstrated that Christian professors are consistently marginalised and passed over for promotion.
Yet decades of US Supreme Court precedent has settled that “The classroom is peculiarly the ‘market-place of ideas'”, and that universities “may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable”.
Late last month it was revealed that Augusta State University in Georgia had told a Christian student that she must change her views if she wanted to graduate.
Jennifer Keeton, 24, is studying for a degree in counselling at the University, but chiefs there say her beliefs about sexual ethics do not conform to the prevailing views of the counselling profession, and she must change or get out.
ADF are also backing Miss Keeton’s case.