Yesterday, Bondings 2.0 reported that an LGBT alumni group from Franciscan University, Steubenville, has asked the school to remove homosexuality as a topic in a sociology course on “deviant behavior.” The university had responded by threatening to sue the group if they used the name of the university in their title.
Scott Jaschik, a journalist at Inside Higher Ed, has done some inquiring into the matter, questioning the university administration about the inclusion of homosexuality in the course:
“In response to questions from Inside Higher Ed, the university released a statement by Daniel R. Kempton, vice president for academic affairs. In the statement, he said that some materials used in the course “present the view that homosexual behavior is not deviant.” But Kempton said that principles of academic freedom apply to the course and that the view that homosexuality is deviant is a legitimate perspective for the course.
“While critics of the university are ‘entitled to their opinion that their understanding of homosexual behavior is scientifically confirmed and thus should be imposed on all universities, we respectfully disagree,’ he said. Kempton quoted Catechism of the Catholic Church as saying that while gay people should be treated with respect and dignity, ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.’
“At Franciscan, Kempton said, offering that perspective is essential, and academic freedom should protect the idea. ‘[O]ur faculty members have the right to present a variety of views in the classroom,; the statement said. Then, quoting the university’s mission statement, Kempton said that ‘Franciscan University opposes the promotion of propositions and values contrary to Catholic teaching.’ He added: ‘In sum, our faculty can present a variety of views on a topic, but cannot promote values contrary to Catholic teaching.’ “
Interestingly, Jaschik points out that this defense of academic freedom was not the university’s first response:
The initial response from the university was not to answer the critique offered of the course description, but to threaten to take legal action against the alumni group.
“Deviant” is sometimes used as a technical term to denote differing from the statistical norm, particularly in sociology courses. Kempton, however, does not cite this usage, though he could have. Instead, he argues that the alumni are
“entitled to their opinion that their understanding of homosexual behavior is scientifically confirmed and thus should be imposed on all universities, we respectfully disagree.”
Kempton’s statements seem to indicate that the course was indeed NOT using “deviant” in a statistically technical way, but was including a judgment in the term.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry