Paul Mirecki -- the Kansas University religious studies professor who derided Christian fundamentalists as "fundies" -- is a strange man with strange tales of alleged persecution. Contrary to his knee-jerk defenders on the Left, it is not bigoted, hateful, or intolerant for me to scrutinize his story.
The professor first created controversy in November after penning an unhinged e-mail message expressing his desire to deliver a "slap" to the "big fat face" of the "fundies" by teaching an intelligent design course "as a religious studies class under the category 'mythology.'" The message was sent to the mailing list of the university's Society of Open-Minded (snort!) Atheists and Agnostics. Mirecki signed his taunting diatribe "Evil Dr. P." These are the words of an individual more than a few cards short of a full deck.
After his remarks were publicized, KU cancelled the proposed course. Mirecki was forced to apologize. And then, out of the blue, It Happened.
Last week, Mirecki claimed he was beaten by two mysterious white men on a rural highway. He says the unidentified assailants, in a pickup that tailgated him in rural Douglas County, Kansas, targeted him for his views while he was "taking a long, pre-dawn drive in the country to clear his mind," according to the student newspaper. Mirecki says he pulled over to the side of the road to let the men pass. He then said he got out of his vehicle. The alleged attackers got out of their truck and beat "the hell" out of him, reportedly using a "metal object," Mirecki said last week before abruptly clamming up about the attack and sequestering himself in his house.
News of the beating aligned perfectly with the mainstream media's template of Christian fundamentalists as right-wing vigilantes. Mirecki's liberal supporters on the Internet swallowed the story whole. The Wichita Eagle told those with questions about Mirecki's account to "give it a rest." A Kansas City Star columnist called allegations of a manufactured hate crime a "cheap shot."