Kathryn Lopez

Kenneth Howell was booted from his job at the University of Illinois for teaching Catholicism. His job at the University of Illinois, as it happens, was teaching Catholicism.

After more than two months of controversy over a firing that should have never have happened, he has been offered his job back. The turnaround underscores the scandal that continues at core institutions of our Western culture. The incident exposes, once again, the lie that is the popular conception of "tolerance," so conventionally in vogue and by no coincidence a tenet of left-wing ideology.

Howell, who teaches an introductory survey of Catholic thought, was "removed from teaching classes" as he told me recently, "for teaching that the Catholic faith teaches that homosexual acts are immoral." In an e-mail to students that laid out Catholic beliefs on homosexuality in preparation for an exam, he wrote: "Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same."

What Howell was teaching, of course, goes against the grain of an institution that focuses on indoctrination rather than education, on rhetoric rather than reason, on crafting feel-good bromides rather than the search for or even existence of any kind of truth.

And, when asked, Howell, a Catholic, has confessed that he even believes these things he teaches. This was all too much for one student, well-schooled in the faux tolerance of the day, to take, who then complained labeled Howell's e-mail "hate speech."

Howell started teaching at the university in the fall of 2001, when "They needed a teacher who was versed in Catholic history, philosophy, and theology," he recalls. So much for that.

His initial firing "represents an egregious violation of my academic freedom and first amendment rights to free speech." He was blindsided by the change in status: "I have never had any student complaints that I've known about, and I've been privileged to be recognized by the university for the quality of my teaching for each of the last four years." Students and faculty rallying to "Save Dr. Ken" on Facebook and campus attest to his popularity.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.