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There is more to the story about Professor Paul Mirecki, chair of the University of Kansas Religious Studies Department, and the uproar his e-mails about religious fundamentalists caused. The Rightwingnut storm troopers appropriated the incident and turned the matter into one of their hate pogroms.
Dr. Mirecki issued a written apology for e-mails and went along with the University of Kansas change of the name of a course he was scheduled to teach on inelligent design during the spring semester. Then more uproar ensued and Dr. Mireckie requested that the course be cancelled. However, the full story involves the National Review finding more e-mails in which Dr. Mirecki expressed his distaste for religious fundamentalism. Dr. Mirecki was followed by two men in a pickup truck Monday morning in an incident that resulted in the men beating him and him being taken to a hospital.
Furthermore, legislators in Kansas have vowed to extract more accountability from Prof. Mirecki. The National Review engaged in a tactic common to Sibby and South Dakota Politics, which is to take partial quotations and put them into contrived contexts in order to portray their author as a rabid hate-mongerer. The question of free speech and academic freedom discussed of late in South Dakota blogs is not really the issue. Academic honesty and accuracy in making representations about what other people say is the issue.
With thanks to Dr. Silas, we reprint below a story about the proposed course and the violence-prompting rhetoric that it inspired. The story is by Frank Tankard of the University Daily Kansan sent to us from The Daily Colonial of George Washington University. (U-WIRE) LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Paul Mirecki's "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design and Creationism" class will not be taught next semester, University of Kansas officials announced Thursday.
Mirecki, chairman of the department of religious studies, said in a statement that he withdrew the course because of public controversy about e-mails he had posted on a yahoo.com list server since 2003. The list server was a discussion board for the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, the 121-person student group for which Mirecki serves as faculty adviser.
"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," he said in the statement. "It would not be fair to the students."
The class made national news when a Nov. 19 e-mail Mirecki wrote was disseminated to politicians and news organizations in which he referred to religious fundamentalists as "fundies" and said his class would serve as "a nice slap in their big fat face."
Older e-mails came to light when National Review, a conservative political magazine, published excerpts from Mirecki's past e-mails on Wednesday.
National Review printed one e-mail excerpt that was Mirecki's detailed description of starting to vomit after swallowing the Eucharist at a Catholic church service as a child because of the idea that he had swallowed the flesh of Jesus.
Chancellor Robert Hemenway issued a statement in which he said Mirecki made the right decision in withdrawing the course and called Mirecki's e-mail comments "repugnant and vile."
"He has a right to free speech, but he has to realize the revelation of his past e-mails has tainted the environment for his course," he said. "He insulted both our students and the University's public, and he misrepresented beliefs of KU's faculty and staff."
Hemenway said the subject matter of Mirecki's class had no bearing on the withdrawal of the course.
"This unfortunate episode does not in any way diminish our belief that the course should be taught," he said. "It is the role of the University to take on such topics and to provide the civil, academic environment in which they can be honestly examined and discussed."
Andrew Stangl, president of SOMA, said the remarks that appeared in National Review were taken out of context by people searching through Mirecki's past posts with the intent of showing that he was biased against Christianity and unfit to teach a class on intelligent design.
"This shows the dedication they're going to, to ruin or discredit Dr. Mirecki," he said. "We had assumed the comments were between the list serve."
State Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), vice chairwoman of the Kansas House of Representatives appropriations committee, said the incident called into question the integrity of the University. She said legislators would likely discuss the class when they return to session Jan. 9.
"I still think the University should be accountable, both the chancellor and the professor, to respond to legislators during the session about this course or any other courses there are issues with," she said.