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Culture & Religion

HOWELL FIRING/ Who Got Fired? Catholicism or the Professor of Catholicism?

Professor Howell carefully distinguished between saying that an act is wrong, and judging a person. Is it always Professor Howell carefully distinguished between saying that an act is wrong, and judging a person. Is it always "hate speech" to say any act is wrong?

 

 

Whether UI’s leadership cannot distinguish between actors and actions and fired Howell for hate speech; whether he was fired for suggesting that religion is reasonable and that the Catholics are Catholic because of (not despite) reality; or whether UI acted because Howell is foolish enough to believe what he says, UI has publicly borne intellectual shortcomings within its Department of Religion, and a distaste for academic freedom. All in all, it looks like UI’s decision was as much an indictment of Catholicism, as it was of Howell the person and teacher, who was recognized for excellence in both 2008 and 2009.

 

Regrettably, any reason for UI’s action also shows an unwillingness to engage diverse viewpoints because of a distrust of reality or uncertainty that its positions will stand successfully when weighed against it. When one has certainty about a belief (or, for UI’s sake, a theory) there is little reason to fear engaging those who uphold a different perspective. Especially when, as in this case, one’s opponent has carefully avoided personalizing discussion about an action’s merit. What would UI and its students have to lose through honest engagement of reality as proposed by Howell?

 

UI is currently reviewing Howell’s termination, according to a recently released statement from UI’s president. I hope that UI will honestly and objectively examine Howell’s circumstances. Doing so should force the conclusion that the decision to fire Howell was overly hasty and ill-conceived. If UI determines otherwise, we can expect Howell to stay in the news. He is currently working with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian organization that litigates on behalf of religious freedom.

 

 

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