An adjunct religion professor at the University of Illinois has been let go for sending his students an email preparing them for an exam and making the Catholic case against homosexuality. One important issue is the way the Catholic church selects and pays the staff who teach courses on Catholicism (more here), but surely decisions about this individual shouldn't focus on that larger problem.
The more directly relevant issue is freedom of speech--why is the instructor being denied it? Well, he's an adjunct, rehired (or not) every semester. But how can that be decisive? A recent survey showed that 50% of US faculty have part-time adjunct status, and another 19% are full-time adjuncts or lecturers. Just 31% are tenured or tenure-track. If freedom of speech among US faculty is going to continue to mean anything, it has to extend to adjuncts.
A complicating factor is that the email does raise questions about the instructor's knowledge and judgment. Given that his stated goal is to help students prepare for an exam, he should be simply setting forth positions and their pros and cons. Instead, he clearly tries to convince students that the utilitarian way of judging homosexuality is wrong and the natural law approach is right. I would not object to him doing that in the classroom ("Now I'll tell you my view--but of course you're free to disagree."), but in an exam-prep email, it comes across as excessive proselytizing. Just as problematic: the email misrepresents utilitarianism, and the explanation of natural law isn't very impressive either.
Because of the other problems with the email, it's tempting not to insist on freedom of speech for this particular adjunct professor, but the department apparently had no previous concerns about his teaching ability, and has no other concerns at this time. He's really being let go because of his stance on homosexuality. People who value free speech ought to hold their noses--his position is inane and easily refuted--and stand up for this guy.
Update: Or at least that's what I think without first spending 3-4 hours reading everything out there on this subject. What say you?