15 February 2011

Oaks Rebutted, Chapter Three

All right folks. Back from our Valentine's Day break, today we resume our examination of Dallin Oaks' jeremiad about threats to religious freedom. Next on the list is the sad tale of university faculty disciplined ostensibly for merely saying they thought The Gay was bad.

Oaks: Professors at state universities in Illinois and Wisconsin were fired or disciplined for expressing personal convictions that homosexual behavior is sinful.

Real story:

In the Illinois case, the "professor" was actually an adjunct lecturer who, like all others, was hired on a semester-by-semester basis with no expectation that his employment would continue. A practicing Catholic, he wrote a lengthy e-mail to his students in which he discussed Catholic teachings on how utilitarianism and natural law theory would judge the morality of homosexual acts, and said that "sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same." Some students protested [note, this wasn't action initiated by the university itself] and complained to the university. In response, the head of the religion department expressed concern that such remarks would "hurt the department," and the associate dean for the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, stated her belief that the e-mail violated " university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us."

In the Wisconsin case, Tom Hilton, the chairman of the university’s information systems department, received an e-mail from a student organizer of a local gay film festival, seeking support for the festival. He replied, saying "I decry attempts to legitimize [homosexuals'] addictions and compulsions. These, our fellow humans, deserve our best efforts to help them recover their lives. We only hurt them further when we choose to pretend that these walking wounded are OK the way they are, that their present injuries are the best they can hope for in life.” He copied that e-mail to a staff member in the university's women’s studies department. Called on it, Hilton himself said he was sorry for the e-mail and acknowledged it had been worded “very badly.” The University said "administrative action" would be taken against Hilton but would not be made public. I've found no further indication of what "discipline" may have been imposed.

These are two cases out of how many universities, faculty members, film festivals, etc. across the country? One was sparked by student protest, not direct retribution by the school, and in the other, the faculty member himself admitted wrongdoing. This is hardly a rising tide of irrational restriction on freedom of religious expression.

Oaks is in no position to criticize two public universities for such actions when the private university over which he presided has dismissed, denied continuing status, or censured far more than two faculty members and students who have taken critical positions relating to official LDS church policy or leadership as well as those who for personal reasons did not pay a tithe to the LDS Church, and which even today will expel an LDS student solely for joining another church.

Tune in tomorrow for the dolorous details of two candidates for masters' degrees in counseling who were penalized or dismissed from programs allegedly because of their religious beliefs that homosexual relations are wrong.


Pablo said...

Once again, well done counselor. Your efforts in correcting the record by summarizing the real stories are vital. The lack of even the most basic intellectual rigor from a man as educated and experienced as Dallin Oaks is more than disappointing. It seems to suggest he simply doesn't care about the facts as the exist in reality.

His speech didn't merely give his perspective on events. His examples, as you are so articulately demonstrating in this series of posts, misstate the facts. Because he has been a lawyer, a law school dean, a university president, a state supreme court justice and a senior member of the leadership of a large and organizationally sophisticated church, it is reasonable to expect more of him than he seems willing to deliver. If he wants to be a willfully uninformed pundit or a public figure who wants to stir up tempests in teapots, he should consider resigning the apostleship to devote himself to those other endeavors full-time. He will surely, and sadly, have an audience.

Pomoprophet said...

be careful going around and debunking myths this like. You'll take away the ability for the religious folk to be the victims. And thats very important to them you see! ;)

kuri said...

It's worth mentioning that the Catholic adjunct at UI has apparently been rehired. (The link isn't clear about whether he would take the job, but he's currently listed on the department's website.)

Also, I'll give you one guess where Tom Hilton got his degrees.

Beck said...

This is great stuff to know. You may not have the time to dedicate to such detailed posts, but your hard and diligent work is very much appreciated... keep it coming!