PZ Myers on Kenneth J. Howell and Hate Speech

Kenneth Howell runs the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois and up until recently was an adjunct instructor at UI until a student complained about him. Readers of this blog know that Howell and I are friends and have even allowed him to post some things at DC seen here. He wrote a blurb for Richard Carrier's chapter on science in The Christian Delusion seen here at the bottom, and moderated my debate with Dinesh D'Souza. (although didn't do a good job of it).

In any case, PZ Myers had some interesting comments about his dismissal:
Kenneth Howell was an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois. He is not being rehired at the end of his contract, apparently because he has been accused of hate speech against gays by a student. He had written an email to his students defending the Catholic position on homosexuality, and a friend of one of the students wrote to the university and the media accusing the professor of "hate speech", of "indoctrinating students", and "limiting the marketplace of ideas".

I hate to say it, but I think the student was wrong. I read the professor's email, and I don't think it is hate speech at all.

It's stupid speech.

A letter that condemned students, that threatened students if they didn't agree with his views, that discriminated against a segment of society, or that denied people full participation in the culture for their views or background or private practices…that would be hate speech. This letter, though, is a pedantic and polite explanation of the views of the professor and of the Catholic church and of his interpretation of utilitarianism, and in fact is careful to say that he isn't condemning any individuals. We can't endorse using this kind of discussion as an excuse to expel people from academia — we want professors and students to be able to communicate freely with one another, without fear of retaliation. I see no sign that the professor was discussing the matter in a way that disrespects any of his students.

And the student complaining was doing so poorly. The professor's ideas made him uncomfortable. He disliked what he said. He thought the professor was insensitive.

Those are not good reasons. If a student is never made uncomfortable, that student is not getting an education.

Bad reasons are given, but I still think UI made the right decision in not renewing this guy's contract. Kenneth Howell is in ignorant fool who mistakes his religious dogma and his personal prejudices for knowledge.

While Howell is clearly ignorant about homosexuality he definitely knows something about science so it's still an honor that he recommended Carrier's chapter in TCD.