Paul Mirecki, chair of KU's religious studies department, withdrew the class, "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design and Creationism," after controversy erupted over e-mails he had written disparaging Catholics and religious conservatives.Two things worth noting. First, the content of the course was never the subject of the debate, and that's why the Hoopes class in Anthropology isn't getting many headlines. The IDolators managed to turn Prof. Mirecki into the story, rather than the idea, and that never serves any good purpose.
"My concern is that students with a serious interest in this important subject matter would not be well served by the learning environment my e-mails and the public distribution of them have created. It would not be fair to the students," Mirecki wrote in a prepared statement.
"It was not my intent when I wrote the e-mails, but I understand now that these words have offended many on this campus and beyond, and for that I take full responsibility. I made a mistake in not leading by example, in this student organization e-mail forum, the importance of discussing differing viewpoints in a civil and respectful manner."
Provost David Shulenberger added: "I granted Professor Mirecki's request and agree with his recognition that his actions had created an untenable situation. We still think the course itself not only has merit but is important and should be taught at some point.
As for the content of his emails, I'll rest on the quip often misattributed to Voltaire "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death for your right to say it."
In two decades of teaching, the worst anyone can say about Dr. Mirecki is that he sent some tasteless emails. I pray that we can all live a life of such virtue. No one attacked the biblical studies courses he's taught, and surely if he had denigrated Christianity or Catholicism in that context, we'd all know it by now.
This was a tempest in a teapot, and whoever blinked first would be declared the victor. The concept of the course was sound and I hope the Provost is right that it will still be taught at some point.