Thursday, March 19, 2009

Does Millsaps College condone religious bigotry?

Open letter to Dr. Frances Lucas, President of Millsaps College

Dear Dr. Lucas,

Dr. Robert McElvaine's piece in the Washington Post, "Impeach the Pope" (March 18, 2009) is an irrational screed that repeatedly (and intentionally?) misrepresents the teachings of the Catholic Church and the actions of Pope Benedict XVI. The author's clear willingness to distort historical fact and his shrill tone betray not just ignorance but malice and religious bigotry. The letter contributes nothing scholarly or constructive, and the reader must wonder what really prompted Dr. McElvaine's eruption of anti-Catholic hostility. Whether the professor was prompted by moral issues or the desire for attention and financial gain ("...As I detail in my latest book..."), I can't say.

To abuse facts as the author has done, and so to fabricate a club to publicly assault another individual with whom one disagrees is not innocent freedom of speech; it is not an expression of academic freedom. It is unscholarly, illiberal, and inexcusable. It demands public reproach by the academic community and individuals of good will. As president of Millsaps, I hope and ask that You will do so.

Prior to Dr. McElvaine's article I hadn't heard of Millsaps College. Now that I have, I must offer You my sympathy that Dr. McElvaine's ill rant, while presumably of his own doing, is an embarrassing reflection upon Millsaps. I don't suppose this was the professor's first embarrassing outburst, nor is it likely to be his last. Will Millsaps become an accomplice by guilty silence, its reputation tarnished by one small-minded professor?

My question to You, the president of Millsaps College, is: how will You respond?

John Robin.

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