Saturday, July 26, 2008

Should P.Z. Myers be fired?

Beliefnet is a blog that deals with religious beliefs from a generally Christian point of view; but not always. Rod Dreher is an editor of the Dallas Morning News who converted to Catholicism from a protestant faith four or so years ago and then after a year converted to Greek Orthodox because, I believe, of the way our bishops have handled the clerical sex abuse situation.
There are some good comments here that might be useful in letters to the editor and president/chancellors of the University.

Should P.Z. Myers be fired?

Friday July 25, 2008

Jimmy Akin makes the case for sacking Myers. Here's the gist of it:

He has made himself unsuitable for employment as an educator.

In particular, he has made himself unsuitable for employment as an educator at a state-run school, such as the University of Minnesota Morris.

It would be one thing if an employee of a private school--say, Bob Jones University--had desecrated the Eucharist. But state schools have a special responsibility to the citizens of the state to employ educators who will be respectful in their conduct towards the students, parents, alumni, and citizens of the state--including the Catholic and Muslim ones.

P. Z. Myers has demonstrated that he will go out of his way to offend the sensibilities of anybody who holds anything sacred, to treat whatever they hold sacred with public contempt. The problem thus is not limited to Catholics and Muslims. Since, in Myers own words, "Nothing must be held sacred," and since he is willing to desecrate anything that others do hold sacred, the university must conclude that Myers is willing not only to outrage Catholic and Muslim students, parents, alumni, and citizens but members of any other group as well.

Myers is thus incapable of effectively carrying out his mission as an educator and his position must be terminated.

He also is in violation of the University of Minnesota Code of Conduct, which holds that faculty members "must be committed to the highest ethical standards of conduct" (II:2) and that "Ethical conduct is a fundamental expectation for every community member. In practicing and modeling ethical conduct, community members are expected to: act according to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct [and] be personally accountable for individual actions" (III:1).

It also stresses that faculty members must "Be Fair and Respectful to Others. The University is committed to tolerance, diversity, and respect for differences. When dealing with others, community members are expected to: be respectful, fair, and civil . . . avoid all forms of harassment . . . [and] threats . . . [and] promote conflict resolution."

P. Z. Myers has done none of these things. He is in fundamental breach of the University of Minnesota's Code of Conduct and must be discharged.

I have not been sympathetic to the belief that Myers must be fired. I hadn't thought it through; it just seems to me that I don't want him to be a free-speech martyr. But Akin contends -- correctly, I think -- that what Myers did crossed an important line in civil society. It is one thing to say offensive and controversial things; it is categorically different to do what he has done.

Mark Shea writes:

This will undoubtedly be portrayed as a free speech matter. That's a lie. Myers has been speaking blasphemously about the Eucharist forever and if he'd kept his views verbal all he'd get back is an argument. When he starts sending minion to invade our sanctuaries and stealing the Holy Eucharist, he crosses the line.

Megan McArdle:

Would it be okay if I spraypainted obscenities on your mother's grave because it's just a piece of highly compressed igneous rock with some lines chiseled into it? How about if I photoshop your a photo of your now-grown child onto a piece of child porn, because after all, no one's actually hurt by this--it's just a piece of paper.

If you reduce symbols to their base physical constituents, then of course it sounds silly to get all excited about them. Nonetheless, you'd probably be pretty damn upset if someone dug up a relative's grave and desecrated the corpse on the grounds that it's just some rotting meat.

People do not live without symbols. The fact that you do not share someone else's symbols does not give you the right to descrate them. Desecrating other people's symbols is the act of a bully and a boor.

Think about it: if you were the president of this public university, and you had a professor who sprayed swastikas on a synagogue, how long would it take you to fire him? Even if you were a closet anti-Semite who sympathized with the professor's action, you would know that keeping someone so unable to contain his hatred of Jews on faculty would be an untenable situation. If he is willing to cross that line, what line won't he cross? If you had a professor who photoshopped a despised colleague's child's head onto child pornography, as McArdle envisions, wouldn't you conclude that your professor was at the very least too sociopathic to risk having at the university?

At the University of Minnesota, Morris, faculty are supposed to be "respectful, fair and civil." Myers has not, to put it mildly. If Morris were a fanatical Catholic who desecrated a Metropolitan Community Church [a christian denomination that serves the homosexual community] with anti-homosexual graffiti, I think his continued employment wouldn't even be an issue. Gay activists would say, and not without reason, that they fear for their safety on campus. If a professor is allowed to do such a thing and still be considered a full and honored member of the academic community, what other cretins might be encouraged by his example to repeat the act? What kind of intimidation might gay students on campus be living under?

If I were the president of the university under those circumstances, I would almost certainly seek Myers's dismissal. I would do so if he painted swastikas on a synagogue, or desecrated a Koran. So why wouldn't I fire him in light of the fact that he has committed the ultimate act of desecration in the eyes of Catholics, as a way of displaying his utter contempt for them and their faith?

I can't think of a reason. But I suspect the University of Minnesota, Morris, will find one.


President Robert H. Bruininks
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Via phone: 612-626-1616
Via fax: 612-625-3875
Via e-mail:

Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson
309 Behmler Hall
600 East 4th Street
Morris, MN 56267


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