Surprising defenders of academic freedom

by Heidi Schlumpf

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Of course, conservative Catholics are up in arms about the recent firing of an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, who taught the Catholic position that homosexual acts are wrong--and followed up his classroom lecture with an email that emphasized that he personally believed the position.

* Chicagoan Tom Roeser railed against the "sense of liberal fascism that the school exhibits over freedom of thought."

* First Things blogger David Mills quotes an anonymous friend in academia who says this case shows the need for tenure to help administrators do the right thing, i.e., protect academic freedom.

* And, of course, the Catholic League issued a press release titled, "Univ. of Illinois trashes free speech," asserting that the university should be sued. "Codes of academic freedom were written expressly to combat abuses like this," says the press release writer, most likely League president Bill Donohue.

One question: Will all these new lovers of academic freedom offer the same defense to a professor with beliefs they don't agree with?

No, I didn't think so.

(An aside: Conservatives also predict that liberals or the media will not support academic freedom in this case, because of the professor's beliefs. Not true. NCR's own Dennis Coday blogged that he agreed with the U of I student editorial that supported the LBGT community while opposing the firing. Given what I know of the facts of this case, I would agree too.)

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