Court rules public university may discipline professor for religious speech [CWN]


A federal district court has ruled that public universities may discipline professors for religious speech.In 2009, a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi, …



I am curious when people are going to start to realize that the religious person, no matter what religion, has become the target of discrimination even from the federal government.


In 2009, a graduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi, referring to a law professor, complained that “sometimes during conversations with Dr. [Thomas] Payne, religion or Bible verses are usually brought up by him in some way. This makes me and others very uncomfortable

There’s a lot of stuff in the world that can make one uncomfortable, so this graduate student should get used to it.


Does that include punishment for talking about non-Christian religions in a favorable way such as Hinduism, paganism, or Islam? Usually when people say “you can’t talk about religion” they only mean the Judeo-Christian religion. But, the same ones consider it okay to talk about Christianity as long as it is being trashed. Or they bring up the Catholic Church and start bashing our religion with a straw man argument, and the minute we start to defend the Church with facts they pull out the “I don’t want to talk about religion” card even though they brought up the subject. It is so hypocritical.


Of course you can be disciplined for using your position as a law professor to tell students that they’re going to hell if they aren’t Christian! That’s unprofessional and an abuse of power. If catholics had to sit and listen to a baptist use his secular position as a professor to teach that catholics are going to hell unless they repent, catholics would be upset about his abuse of power too.


I agree that would be an abuse of his position. What’s missing, unfortunately, is the exact context of the “conversations”. Was it a private discussion of religion, or was it involved in his duties as a professor of law?


Has Professor Payne admitted to making the “going to hell” comment or does he dispute it?


I don’t think you have a fundamental right to not be punished by an employer for your speech made on the job, but I would argue from an academic perspective, this sort of thing stinks. It’s flagrantly anti-intellectual and threatens the very academic freedom the anti-religious so often appeal to.

If you want it both ways, then you won’t have it at all. Destroy academic freedom for people you don’t like and you will destroy it for yourselves as well.


I disagree with your statement, atheist and seculars are always trying to ram there dogma down our throats for years. Atheist and secular have been trying to stamp out fact on the existence of God for years. I say I Love Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I would walk out and pray for the Soul of the Baptist professor and Blue-eyed Lady.

He who denies God on earth will be denied in Heaven.


I guess the Church erred in making Peter a saint then.


I agree with you. Would you agree that any professor that tells their believing students, whether christian, jew, muslim or whatever, that their belief is silly and nothing but superstition should also be disciplined?




Interesting article. What isn’t clear to me is the context within which the professor’s evangelizing was done, and whether there were repercussions to the student.

To me, the repercussions matter more than that the professor talked about his personal religious beliefs. What is the student to expect, that no one they ever run into will discuss these beliefs? And is merely bringing these religious beliefs up sufficient to cause harm to the student? It must be demonstrated. For example, my company has a policy of non-discrimination based on race, creed, disability, gender and orientation. But what constitutes discrimination is not listed - which is problematic because an employee could complain that I’ve treated him disparately because he’s gay and I effectively have no counter. My solution is simply not to talk to anyone unless absolutely necessary.

I’ve also found that, more damaging than religious beliefs are differences in ideological matters, whether political or due to the subject matter. If you’re a Keynesian attending a school with monetarists, you won’t it make to dissertation committee. Is that wrong? No, its actually something that should be vetted in the process - my top choice for grad school and I disagreed a lot when we got into the interview because the school of thought I preferred at the time (Institutionalism) was being replaced within the department by a neo-Keynesian trend, and I was told that if I wanted to study Institutionalism I should go elsewhere.

Some consideration also has to be given that, while grad students technically work for their mentors, the relationship is much different than any other work relationship. In my workplace there is no need to talk about anything personal. Indeed, it’s frowned upon, as I’ve noted above (someone here did, just to make a point, actually complain that when employees talked about their kids it was offensive to employees who don’t have kids), and conversations about personal matters are just discouraged. Period. Fine, I come to work, I work, I go home, I collect my pay. But a grad student to mentor relationship is much more dependent and can often be somewhat parental. Students and mentors are given to developing tight friendships that last for years - indeed I’ve often been to the homes of my professors for dinner and even attended church events with them (to be fair, the late Sen. Paul Simon spoke at one church event to discuss the role of US culture in globalizing democracy - very cool to attend). The key is for each participant to be clear in what is offered and whether it has bearing on the program. Done successfully, there is a work relationship and a personal one, and neither gets in the way of the other.

To put another way - it’s one thing if you’re my student, you’re at my house, drinking some coffee on my porch after you’ve dined at my table, we discuss our views on life and I talk about my faith in Jesus Christ, that I don’t believe I, or anyone, can be saved without him. It’s entirely another story if the student stopped by the office and asked “How does the IS-LM model clear when price ceilings are set” and I answered “Jesus is the answer.” From the article I cannot say which scenario is more to the truth.

It certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? More and more the safe harbor seems to be “Well, you can certainly believe what you like, but you aren’t protected from prosecution if you share it or claim any of your public actions derive from it.” Because I can’t talk about my faith as your boss, or as your coworker, as someone selling a product to you or buying a product from you. I probably could get sued if I’m a perfect stranger, and the only reason I won’t get sued if I’m your friend or family member is because you have another way to shut me up (asking politely, I’d hope) or you value the relationship more than the harm you could claim you suffered in Court.

It’s not only in this sphere, but also others, in which we as a society are pushing each other so far apart, and taking such offense at one another that I wonder what there is to hold us together at all. I honestly don’t know whether I want to participate in this society anymore. At some point we decided that every slight, real or imagined, merited a legal intervention. I don’t even talk politics with those close to me anymore. I don’t agree with any of them, nor they with me. It’s better just to turn on the television until they stop talking.


I have noticed that.

If that’s how it happened - a man shouldn’t get in trouble for saying “I think you need to be Christian to be saved” if we don’t know the context, and we don’t. The student could very well have said “I don’t think you need to believe in Jesus to be saved”, inviting the question. When I was in college we wanted to hold a Baccalaureate Mass on-campus, with the Sacrament. It’s a dry campus but we asked and the provost made an exception. The dean of the Language Arts program, himself a UCC minister, said he didn’t want alcohol in his building (which was where the auditorium was). The provost, the priest and the minister had a sit-down, agreed on a solution (a limit to the amount of wine that would be poured in the first place, so no one would get drunk), and that was that.

Whatever happened to “I disagree with you and we should leave it there.” We aren’t the enemy, and merely being a public employee doesn’t mean we have to lock up our religious beliefs in our houses and never bring them out.


But the court cannot decide what is the morally correct response. They can only decide on law and fundamental rights. We do not really have a fundamental right to not be fired by our employers for speech made on the job. I am not even sure if we have a right to not be fired for speech made off the job.

That doesn’t mean firing people for speech made on or off the job is right or a good idea. In the academic setting, it’s pure poison.

I think this new radical secularist culture is actually fundamentalist in nature. They have more in common with radical Islam than with us. The outcome in the university is the same reduction in research and pursuit of knowledge that resulted from radical Islam. I read an article by a student in the Harvard newspaper the other day arguing that they should be able to shut down research that they think would lead to discrimination or what they call a social injustice, which is a vague term when used in such a context. They don’t really care so much about truth unless it conforms to their politics and worldview. They don’t care that they behave like hypocrites either. They refuse to see it and couldn’t care less anyway. If some fact or theory does not conform to their hypernarrow worldview, then it is fair game for being silenced, and they will silence folks like an inquisition, which they ironically like to bring up all the time as reason to discriminate against and silence Catholics.

It’s just a war. I don’t think you can reason with people like this. I really do not. I think they are going to keep at this until they eradicate what they conceive of as a threat and opposition.



At least there I hope we have some recourse.

It certainly has all the hallmarks. Fundamentalism is defined by lensing all components through a set of principles. The principle often seems to be “respect individual choice over the need for self-determination by religious institutions”.

Interesting since this is the same school that produced research showing the Republicans are less intelligent than Democrats. I wonder how they’d feel about the theory that the increase in the percentage of persons identifying as homosexual is due to teratogenic effects of pollution. “Pollution is bad” plus “born this way” but …

It is ironic, and it is how ideologies clash. I primarily align with the Catholic viewpoint, not because it is the most open-minded or most tolerant, but because it is the most Catholic. I do not think there is common ground between Harvard and I, but that is not likely to change my mind.

I fear you are right. We are headed for actual violence in the name of science. What the intellectual Left holds up as inerrant will not be the first “god” under which property will be seized and lives forfeit. Only the latest.


Here is that article, by the way.

That’s about as anti-intellectual and Orwellian as I have seen it openly expressed. I have no doubt this person is convinced of her rightness in shutting down speech, research, and ideas which she deems will lead to whatever she considers unjust. But the problem is how many people will read that and nod their heads in assent. It’s frightening to see that happening in academia.


Oh yeah, like this is going to happen any time soon LOL.


Deafening silence from BEL on that one. Which of us believers that attended universities in the last 25 years has NOT had to endure the sneering contempt of a militant secularist professor in a lecture? None of THEM is ever disciplined for it. THAT’s protected academic freedom, you see… :rolleyes:

It’s one thing to calmly discuss the apparent conflicts that have occurred in the past and present between the assertions of faith and the implications of science. I get that. But I think most of us have had professors go WELL beyond that. I certainly had a Zoology prof spend an inordinate amount of time making arguments that evolutionary “dead ends” disproved the possibility of intelligent direction behind the increasing complexity of life over geologic time. As if THAT were within the purview of science or the curriculum…


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