- The Washington Times - Friday, July 23, 2010

Universities claim to be havens for diversity, but this political correctness does not guarantee freedom of thought. Tolerance is reserved for those who stick to the liberal line. Those who deviate from the approved set of views can expect to be set upon by angry student activists and reproving academic bureaucrats.

Two recent examples of “thought crime” illustrate the academy’s low level of tolerance for divergent views. The University of Illinois fired nontenured adjunct professor Ken Howell from teaching and also from a job at the on-campus Catholic center for correctly stating Catholic doctrine on homosexuality. Mr. Howell had been teaching courses such as Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought at the school for nine years. During the spring semester, he explained in an e-mail to a student that according to Catholic doctrine, “A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong.”

A hypercritical student radical determined this was “hate speech” and complained to religion department head Robert McKim, who fired Mr. Howell. Apparently, the professoriat will condone no deviations from political correctness regardless of the context or the facts. The unavoidable message to student activists is that they need not go to the trouble of engaging in intellectual exchanges with those who disagree with them; they simply can have the other side of a debate tossed off campus.

Students also are subject to official sanction for intellectual heresy. Twenty-four-year-old Augusta State University graduate student Jen Keeton was given the choice between attending a “gay sensitivity” training course or being expelled. Miss Keeton’s crime in the eyes of the bureaucracy was saying that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice, not a “state of being,” as the politically correct doctrine asserts. Miss Keeton was instructed to go through a “remediation” program that included sensitivity training, studying pro-homosexual propaganda and attending a “gay pride” parade and reporting on it. Presumably, the report would have to be favorable. Failing this, she would be expelled from the university’s graduate counselor education program.

Miss Keeton made it clear that her views on homosexuality are rooted in her Christian ethical convictions, which the school felt was part of the problem. “Christians see this population as sinners,” university official Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley told Miss Keeton, while making clear the student would “not be able to successfully complete the remediation plan and thus complete the ASU counseling program unless she commits to affirming the propriety of gay and lesbian relationships.” The university argues that the counseling profession’s code of ethics requires counselors not to impose their ethical frameworks on the people they are trying to help. School administrators obviously see no irony in forcing Miss Keeton to bow to their views, while simultaneously arguing that for Miss Keeton even to hold divergent opinions - much less express them - is unethical. The persecuted student is suing the school for violations of her rights to free speech, freedom of religion and equal protection.

Miss Keeton is to be commended for standing up for her rights. For too long, university administrators acting without oversight and senior professors shielded by tenure have imposed a blanket left-wing orthodoxy on college campuses that penalizes independent thinking and victimizes free-thinking students and nontenured faculty. More lawsuits like this will serve notice that this form of discrimination will not be tolerated. The American mind has been in chains for far too long, and it is time for them to be broken.

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