How Prof. Howell Was Dismissed for Teaching Catholic Doctrine

By TFP Student Action   
July 19, 2010
Professor Kenneth Howell
Professor Kenneth Howell
The overwhelming response in favor of Prof. Kenneth Howell’s reinstatement after being summarily dismissed from his teaching post at the University of Illinois has been fabulous.  So much so that the president of the University of Illinois, Dr. Michael Hogan, is sending an automated form email to those who have protested, suggesting that the protest is off-base, misinformed and non-factual. “Prof. Howell has not been dismissed from the University,” the email states.

Sign the protest

However, the facts speak for themselves.  The pro-bono legal team at Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter to University of Illinois officials on July 12. The letter clearly explains how Dr. McKim, Head of the Department of Religion, dismissed Prof. Howell.

“…I want to reiterate that the decision has already been made to have someone else teach our courses on Catholicism,” Dr. McKim wrote. This is a decision of the department, of the college, and of the university.  We are currently in the process of finding someone else to teach…”

In light of this statement, Dr. Howell’s own account (copied below) and the legal analysis made by experienced attorneys of Alliance Defense Fund, it is difficult to give credence to Dr. Hogan’s mass email where Dr. Howell’s dismissal is surprisingly denied.

Read the Alliance Defense Fund’s Letter Here

Read Professor Howell’s Account

Prof. Howell’s own account is also helpful to understand how he was dismissed for teaching Catholic moral doctrine in class on Catholicism. 

"Dear Friend:

I write this short narrative to explain why I am no longer teaching at the University of Illinois and am not employed by the Diocese of Peoria as of 30 June 2010. First, a little background.

I came to Champaign-Urbana in August of 1998 to be employed by the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center as a teacher in the courses of the Catholic faith that were then taught through the Center. For seven years I enjoyed a working relationship with Monsignor Stuart W. Swetland, the Director of the Center, who taught alongside me in that program. In 2000, Monsignor Swetland negotiated an agreement with the Department of Religion in which he and I would be adjunct professors in the department and would teach courses on Catholicism. We simultaneously established the Institute of Catholic Thought of which I became the Director and Senior Fellow. The purpose of the Institute was to promote the intellectual heritage of the western world in which Catholicism played such an integral role.

Since the Fall of 2001, I have been regularly teaching two courses in the Department of Religion. Since Monsignor Swetland’s departure in May of 2006, I have taught the equivalent of a full-time professor every semester, sometimes even more. This past semester (Spring 2010) something occurred which changed an otherwise idyllic academic life. One of the courses I have taught since 2001 has been “Introduction to Catholicism.” I think that it is fair to say that many students at the University of Illinois have benefited greatly from this and other teaching I have done. Every semester in that “Introduction” class, I gave two lectures dealing with Catholic Moral positions. One was an explanation of Natural Moral Law as affirmed by the Church. The second was designed as an application of Natural Law Theory to a disputed issue in our society. Most of those semesters, my chosen topic was the moral status of homosexual acts. I would happy to explain more fully the Catholic Church’s position on this matter but, for the sake of brevity, I can summarize it as follows. 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. This is what I taught in my class.

This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might have disagreed with the Church’s position but they did so respectfully and without incident. This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them an email contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we take utilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.

After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairman of the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told that someone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent to administrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. I was told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.

Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent that my days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just to ask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class I regularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I also averred that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. This made no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.

I then consulted with our Diocesan lawyer, Mrs. Patricia Gibson, to see if the St. John’s Newman Center could sue the university for breach of contract. Mrs. Gibson, kind in spirit and articulate as regards the law, told me that unfortunately the university had made very careful provisions to protect itself and so would not be liable in a law suit. I am still consulting with other lawyers about possible legal action on the grounds of the first amendment.

Then Monsignor Gregory Ketcham, the current Director of the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and my superior, informed me that the Center would not be able to continue employing me since there was no longer any teaching for me to do. I then reiterated what I had mentioned to him the day before. I suggested that we work together to have courses on Catholicism taught at the Newman Center that could be accredited by a Catholic university and that could be transferred into the University of Illinois for credit. In this way, the students whom we had been called to serve could continue to be instructed in the Catholic Faith. I told him in fact that I had once had conversations with professors in Catholic universities who were willing to make such arrangements. Monsignor Ketcham said that he had no interest in such a plan.

Thus, after more than sixty years, students at the University of Illinois will have no classes on Catholicism available to them. If the Department of Religion continues to offer the courses I taught, I have no idea how accurately Catholicism will be represented. I know this subject well enough to say it can be easily distorted. I have tried in this document to portray in a straightforward manner what happened. I also am preparing another document giving my own interpretation of all these events. If you are interested in that, or you just want to be informed as things progress, please contact me by email: [email protected]

I look back at the twelve years I have spent in this position with memories of wonderful times with my students and friends with whom I have labored. It has been a time of great growth and joy. I thank God from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know Him who holds it. He is faithful and can be trusted.


Kenneth J. Howell "



+1 # Beverly S. Hunley 2010-07-19 21:48
Thanks to Professor Howell for teaching true Catholic doctrine in his "Catholic Doctrine" course. Shame on the Catholic hierarchy for not supporting him. Where is the logic in this?? It's no wonder Catholicism in this country is in trouble. May God help us.
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0 # Miss Helen Churnega 2010-07-19 22:38
Dear Dr. Howell,

I'll be praying for you! I look forward to an update on this matter.
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+4 # John Soucy 2010-07-19 22:59
I agree that this is a violation of academic freedom and his first amendment right of free speech. He was teaching Catholic orthodoxy which is what he is supposed to do in this class. He was not forcing it on anyone, simply and accurately explaining the official Catholic teaching
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+1 # Nance 2010-07-19 23:22
The Constitution of The United States of America does not provide for establishing a separate person-hood with special rights based upon sexual preferences. The Constitution does, however, serve to protect and secure our Right to witness to and practice our Religion without persecution. Defining oneself or someone else as a sexual object is demeaning. Those who insist on identifying themselves or someone else according to their sexual preferences want it to appear as if those who refuse to condone homosexual sexual acts because they do not respect the Dignity of the Human Person are discriminating against a person, when they are,in fact, discriminating against demeaning sexual acts. Wanting our children to develop healthy and holy relationships out of respect for themselves and others is not an act of hate, it is an act of Love.
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+3 # FLAVIA DAVIS 2010-07-19 23:27
It is the just and righteous that are always persecuted. Trust in the Lord, as I can see you do and true justice will prevail. May Our Divine Lord and His Most Blessed Mother protect you-even if you don't win here, you will win as you stand before Him!
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+2 # Dr. Emmanuel Belena 2010-07-20 00:42
Professor Howell's issue is one that affects our society in general because it is a threat to our Freedom of Speech. Universities are where our future leaders are formed and trained. If in our universities its faculty feels threaten to teach moral truths, that will keep many from teaching them to avoid retaliation, then where are its students going to learn them, which in turn will affect their values and visions as they take up positions of influence in our society. This is part of the "culture war" that we are struggling through from which a "dictatorship of political correctness" will be imposed on us, or we will overcome it and keep our freedom of thought and speech.
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+2 # patrick 2010-07-20 01:43
For doing something good Prof Kenneth J Howell has been punished. A very sad state of affairs.
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+2 # Helen Hlebiczki 2010-07-20 06:37
Dear Professor Howell,
Thank you for teaching and standing up for Catholic beliefs. You were definitely wronged when you were dismissed from your position. You have a good attitude, and I am sure our Lord has greater plans for you.
God Bless You,
Helen Hlebiczki
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+3 # mary ann amato 2010-07-20 07:10
Could it be arranged to have the Professor teach that very course on-line for a fee? I would be very interested. We need the Truth today, not offered widely, and this would be a way to disseminate that Truth.

Thank you,

Mary Ann
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+2 # Theresa Lawson 2010-07-20 07:11

My prayers are with Dr. Howell. This is just another 'sign of the times' in which we live. The battle rages on...let us take up the cross, follow after Christ, and work to re-evangelize America! God's Blessings!

In Union With
the Holy Family,
Theresa Lawson
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+3 # Don E. Leeman 2010-07-20 07:25
It is truly shocking to see a dismissal of this nature. Dr. Howell is clearly well qualified to teach the topic of Catholicism, and I support his continuation as strongly as I possibly can.
Frankly, to see such a turn of events on account of 1 or 2 (or some other such small number) students is even more outlandish. Is this how far "political correctness" has taken us? Do we dismiss qualified teachers on account of the discontent of the very few? NO!

It is my most fervent hope that Dr. Howell will be immediately and fully restored to his teaching position.


Don E. Leeman, PGK, PFN, FDD
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+3 # Mrs. Joe Richard 2010-07-20 07:30
My husband and I support Professor Howell and regret the actions taken by the University. It is a sad day when the moral law of God is upstaged by those who do not wish to live by God's will.
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+2 # Tim Mauro-Vetter 2010-07-20 07:35
Dr. Kenneth Howell,
Your reward will be in Heaven!
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+2 # Rosemarie Grassi 2010-07-20 07:54
It is sad indeed where our amendment rights are headed and how they are violated.

I am Catholic and do not agree with many things the church today is doing.

The infiltration of the powers of evil are prevailing more and more into every aspect of our lives.

It will continue so if the baptized people of God do not turn to earnest prayer and conversion of heart through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

One can see the evil in our government and everywhere, where people purport to be Christian, yet their actions tell well who they serve, SATAN.

When bishops, priests, cardinals do not stand up for the faith of God, and give communion to the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and others, you know that the powers of evil have infiltrated the church.

I will continue to pray that the justice of God is done and the Holy Spirit guides those in true justice and conversion of heart.
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+2 # Gavin Dmello 2010-07-20 09:17
God Bless Prof Howell for standing firm in your faith. I salute you.
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+3 # Denise Rosier 2010-07-20 09:41
"Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted". I am mourning for our country. The truth can no longer be spoken in public. Our young people in universities are fed lies and denied the whole story.
I am thankful for people like Professor Howell who are willing to be persecuted for righteousness sake-theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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+2 # Elnora Mercado 2010-07-20 09:58
I agree with Prof. Howell that the Catholic position on homosexual acts should be taught in a Catholic course and he should not have been dismissed because he is teaching the truth. It is unfair that university students are not given the opportunity to learn about religion including the Catholic faith so they can make the right choice and decisions in life.
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+4 # Kenneth Lange 2010-07-20 09:59
Unfortunately Professor Howell is a victim of the pagan secularism that is so prevalent in our Country today. We need to pray that our Country, especially our government and judicial systems, will return to God based beliefs, including the natural law, as "IN GOD WE TRUST".
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+2 # Jane Kosco 2010-07-20 10:03
The persecution and white martyrdom begin! Gird your loins! We must support Prof. Howell. I applaud his courage!! We must ALL be courageous because this is just the beginning of what is going to prevail more and more. Religious freedom is being eroded. Stand firm in the Faith!

Jane Kosco
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+1 # Jose Maria Alcasid 2010-07-20 10:05
Hmm...let's see what "Defending a Higher Law" says about this tactic,(see pp 32-33,

"The authors recommended that homosexual activists use different scripts for different audiences. Any script, however,must speak to the heart, not the head. The focus should be on
manipulating the public’s emotions, not addressing it with logical arguments.

"Kirk and Madsen divided the American public into three roughly equal groups and recommend corresponding tactics:

1) those vehemently opposed to homosexuality—isolate and silence;
2) the undecided Middle America—desensitize, jam and convert;
3) those friendly to the homosexual movement—

The movement’s psychological attack should be carried out simultaneously on all three fronts, since results on each front are compounded by the combined effort."

BINGO! There you have it.
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+1 # Virginia Cordoba 2010-07-20 10:36
Good grief! What an injustice! I remember fondly my classes at the Newman
center at the U of I.. I can not imagine there not being classes about Catholicism not being taught there. To me that was a big part of what the Newman Center was all about.
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+4 # Deacon John OHare 2010-07-20 10:47
How sad that the devil is once again at work to eliminate Christ and His Church from public life. I am shocked that the Newman Center has fallen to the pressure with "no interest in such a plan". Where is the fortitude of our Priests who give in to such pressure? Our prayers are with you Professor. I am probably the next one as I have mentioned the sinfulness of the act several times in my homilies. Respectfully, Deacon John
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+2 # Helen Margaret Davis 2010-07-20 11:14
God Bless You! I know He has everything under control. We are fighting a spiritual battle and I will add this to my prayers. I shows how one person can cause so much trouble for those who are trying to follow the truth.
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+2 # Kate McLean 2010-07-20 11:17
Professor Howell,
Praise God for those brave souls, like you, who teach absolute Truth. It takes humility and courage to suffer consequences rather than yield to the lie of secular humanism to preach Truth as relative. May God BLESS you abundantly as you hold and teach the Catholic faith in LOVE. Let us pray for MERCY for those who reject Truth because of pride or weakness to break from a sinful lifestyle. A book that has helped me to understand the times in which we live is AA-1025. It is sad today that we are tolerant of all differences and religions except Catholicism. Hatred towards Catholicism is becoming epidemic. The reality is they hate Jesus and His teachings. Maybe some will awaken to see what they are Paul. I pray you hold no bitterness but continue to stand for TRUTH and pray for those who love to hate you because you dare to discuss the existence of sin and Hell. True Love. Thank you for being a light in the darkness.
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+1 # Mary Charbonneau 2010-07-20 12:18
Dear Professor Howell;

I, and 6,000 other, petitioned college in your defense. However, I believe leaving this college is a sign to move to a more receptive atmosphere- one that is truly Catholic- or Judeo Christian. This college, in my opinion, had designed itself to undermine the Catholic Church.

Also, in the future, if students want to attend Catholic schools- they should be Catholic; otherwise, it allows non-Catholics to enter an open window of opportunity; thus destroying the fabric of Catholicism. Faith is the 'key' ingredient to being a Catholic. If the Word says NO- then, NO it is; it doesn't deserve an argument/debate for satan to push the Faith over the falls- so-to-speak.

Also, are you a Catholic?
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+1 # JT Turner 2010-07-20 12:47
Illinois? Just up the road was Cardinal Bernadin's fifedom. The "Pink Mafia" was a term applied to his tenure, I believe. I guess his tenure was not totally in vain, sad to say.
What is sad is that Catholic moral theology is NOT being brought up by the vast majority of pastors in Novus Ordo parishes. Abortion, contraception and homosexuality (the"unholy trinity" of sin) are topics that simply go unmentioned. I pray that the bishops will insist that the Church's position be presented often and forcefully. Those who choose can simply walk away.
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+5 # Sandra Mapp 2010-07-20 13:31
Dear Dr. Howell, As a devout Catholic, I am so very sorry to about your dilemma. Unfortunately in today's world, everything has been turned upside down. What used to be wrong is now right and what used to done in secrecy is now blatantly done in the open. What you were teaching was "absolute TRUTH" of the Catholic Church's teaching and moral code.It seems that too many people these days are becoming offended by TRUTH and seem to think that what they do in their lives does not have any repercussion on society.This is ,as we know , someone who is "deceived" and whose mind has been darkened by PRIDE. Society seems to place a great value on such people and it seems that the government itself is leaning toward acceptance of all that has been know as evil in the past. We continue to pray for this world, and for people such as you , who have come to feel and know persecution for the faith. God Bless you Prof. Howell for standing up for TRUTH and the right teaching of the Catholic Church!S.M.
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+1 # KATHY LYNN 2010-07-20 15:02
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+2 # MARTIN OLEARY 2010-07-20 15:12
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+2 # MARTIN OLEARY 2010-07-20 15:13
Check them out:
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+3 # Claudia Brown 2010-07-20 15:27
Mr. Howell,
I commend you for your service to God, to your students, to our Catholic faith and to our world. Please continue to speak only the truth and know that it is only God who you need to please. Unfortunately Truth is becoming a rare item in today's society. My prayers are with you.
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+1 # David LePage 2010-07-20 15:32
I would be interested to know just what they would teach on this subject and how they would connect it to Catholic moral teaching!
This is just simply outrageous. These people should lose their positions.
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+2 # David Scott Pringle 2010-07-20 19:45
This is simply a civil rights action based on the third amendment. TFP should be in the US District Court with Dr. Howell right now. It is time to stand for Holy Church and the Faith.
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+5 # francis tarry 2010-07-21 11:36
If any person professes to be Catholic then be
obedient to the AUTHORITY of the Holy Catholic Church.
If we held a referendum and all 6,6 billion people on this planet agreed that homosexual actions were acceptable, this would not change GOD'S mind. The Kingdom of GOD is a Theocracy not a democracy.
We are called to be obedient.
GOD said it. That settles it.
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0 # Eileen Warner 2010-07-25 19:43
To fire, or not allow to teach, any professor for accurately portraying their topic is outlandish. This would be akin to firing a history professor for accurately describing the reasons why slave owners thought slavery was OK. If Prof Howell did anything other than accurately teach his topic, he would be guilty of academic censure and mis-representation. I pray for Prof Howell's reinstatement to his teaching position and the University upholding the 1st amendment. Can you imagine what would happen if the University did something similar to a Muslim studies teacher?
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