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Freedom of Speech or Hate Speech?

Hardly a week goes by without news that some professor or other is being disciplined, fired, marginalized, or otherwise shut up for making some politically incorrect statement in his or her classroom. This time, University of Illinois lecturer Kenneth Howell apparently was fired for describing and then siding with the Catholic church’s stance against homosexuality. Professor Howell was teaching a course titled, “Introduction to Catholicism” when he made the controversial statement and then followed up his in-class comments with an email that further elaborated the thought.

Based on what has been published, the email does not appear to be hateful or even judgmental though it is not ambiguous about the topic Howell discusses. Regardless of the subject matter, the issue that makes this story news is whether professor Howell was wrongly dismissed from his teaching position for articulating a position that runs counter to the stated inclusive policy and actually engaged in “hate speech” as the university claims he has. I’m also continuously struck when a professor is fired for making statements that a university deems intolerant. I’m not always certain about the logic that could justify such an action.

See more details at the Huffington Post here. This piece links to other analyses (many critical of Howell).

Also see this spirited defense of Professor Howell.

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