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Scientist booted off oil panel over writing

- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Energy Department removed a St. Louis scientist from a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue a solution to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because of writings on his website about homosexuality and race relations.

Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz was one of five top scientists chosen by the Department of Energy and attended meetings in Houston last week.

Mr. Katz is a leading scientist, but his website postings often touch on social issues. Some of those writings include defenses of "homophobia" and doubts about the value of racial preferences and similar diversity efforts.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was not aware of Mr. Katz's writings before selecting him for the panel, spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller told the Associated Press. It was not immediately clear how the department became aware of the writings.

"Dr. Chu has spoken with dozens of scientists and engineers as part of his work to help find solutions to stop the oil spill," a statement from the Energy Department said. "Some of Professor Katz's controversial writings have become a distraction from the critical work of addressing the oil spill. Professor Katz will no longer be involved in the Department's efforts."

Mr. Katz, reached by phone by The Washington Times, said he had no comment and referred a reporter to official statements.

"There's enough mud being thrown around. I think it would be better if I just referred you to the public record," he said.

The extent of work he performed on the oil-spill recovery effort was not immediately known.

In a website posting titled "In Defense of Homophobia," Mr. Katz wrote that "the human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts."

"Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things," he said.

In another posting, Mr. Katz questioned the value of universities' diversity efforts, saying they show no intellectual diversity and merely ingrain race-based thinking.

"The diversity movement is racist at its core," he writes. "When dealing with people, we should be concerned with intellect, talent, character and accomplishment. People aren't dogs or cattle; race matters only to racists."

A.J. Bockelman, director of the pro-gay St. Louis advocacy group PROMO, applauded the decision to remove Mr. Katz.

"It's disappointing at a time like this that when all Americans need to come together and focus on relief efforts and recovery efforts in the Gulf, someone divisive was placed in a position of power," Mr. Bockelman said.

A spokeswoman for Washington University declined comment.

The university said in a statement that its guidelines allow personal pages by students, graduates, faculty or staff members as long as they comply with the law and do not involve copyright infringement, constitute libel or harassment, or contain illegal materials.

Valerie Richardson of The Washington Times contributed to this report.