NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ on Two FIRE Cases about Christian Professors

By August 16, 2010

National Public Radio’s All Things Considered discussed a couple of FIRE cases earlier this month. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, reporting for the show, covered a poll of 1,700 university scientists at "elite universities" which found that many of them say they self-censor when it comes to talking about their religion:

Contrary to the stereotype that most scientists are atheists, [Rice professor Elaine Howard Ecklund] says, nearly half of them say they are religious. But when she did follow up interviews, she found they practice a "closeted faith."

"They just do not want to bring up that they are religious in an academic discussion. There’s somewhat of almost a culture of suppression surrounding discussions of religion at these kinds of academic institutions." 

Ecklund says the scientists worried that their colleagues would believe they were politically conservative — or subscribed to intelligent design. She says they all insisted on anonymity.

Hagerty also covered two of FIRE’s cases. One is at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, in which FIRE filed an amici brief in defense of the First Amendment rights of Professor Mike Adams:

A few years ago, he began writing strongly worded op-ed pieces expressing conservative views on religious and political issues. When he applied for promotion to full professor, his colleagues voted him down. Adams sued claiming, among other things, that he was rejected because of his religious speech.

"I think that the evidence in my case very strongly suggests that I was being held to a higher standard and that there was retaliation for expression of my First Amendment rights."

The other is at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which "dismissed an adjunct professor for offending students when discussing the Catholic church’s view of homosexuality." The university reinstated Professor Kenneth Howell after FIRE and many others took up his case.

Thanks to Hagerty for drawing attention to this trend of antipathy toward religious professors on campus. There is also a trend of antipathy toward religious student groups on campus–the number of Christian groups alone that have almost (or actually) lost their official recognition is staggering. Check out these lists from the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund.

The recording of the story (quoted above, which differs somewhat from the transcript) is also available online.

Schools: University of North Carolina – Wilmington University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Cases: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Professor Punished for Teaching about Catholic Thought in Course about Catholic Thought