“Since the Fall of 2001, I have been regularly teaching two courses in the department of religion,” Howell explained. One of the classes, “Introduction to Catholicism,” includes an explanation of Natural Moral Law as affirmed by the Church as well as an application of Natural Law Theory to a disputed social issue.
“Most of those semesters, my chosen topic was the moral status of homosexual acts,” he explained.
Howell said he taught the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality. He summed it up by saying, “A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong.”
To show how homosexual behavior would be considered under competing moral systems, Howell sent an e-mail to the students contrasting utilitarianism with natural moral law. “I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would,” Howell said. “This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.”
A complaint about Howell's statement was sent in a May 13 e-mail to Robert McKim, head of the religion department. The e-mail was sent by a student who was not in Howell's class, but said he was writing on behalf of a friend who was in the class and wished to remain anonymous. The e-mail complained about Howell's statements on homosexuality, calling them “hate speech.”
"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," said the e-mail, according to The News-Gazette. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation."