When a Marquette University student told his professor that he opposed gay marriage, that professor told the student that he was "free to drop this class."
While this is an attitude that we've come to expect from public schools in recent years, Marquette University is a private, Jesuit Roman Catholic university.
According to an initial report at student blog "Marquette Warrior," the incident happened just after a Theory of Ethics class earlier this month. The professor, Cheryl Abbate, was teaching about the application of philosophical text to modern political controversies when she listed three key points on the board: gay rights, gun rights, and the death penalty.
She then erased the "gay rights" line, making the comment that "we all agree on this." The 20-year-old student, who was not identified by name, approached the professor after class to get further clarification on what she meant by her comment and avoidance of the topic. He recorded the conversation.
"Are you saying if I don't agree with gays not being allowed to get married that I'm homophobic?" the student asked.
"I'm saying it would come off as a homophobic comment in this class," Abbate replied.
"Regardless of why I'm against gay marriage, it's still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person's opinion when they may have different opinions," the student countered.
"There are some opinions that are not appropriate-that are harmful-such as racist opinions, sexist opinions," the professor continued. "And quite honestly, do you know if anyone in the class is homosexual?"
The student said that he wasn't aware of any homosexual students in the class, and told the professor that it was his right, as an American citizen, to challenge the beliefs of others.
"Actually," the teacher replied, "You don't have a right in this class, especially [in an ethics class], to make homophobic comments."
While the teacher is correct on certain protected rights in a private institution, the fact that Marquette is a Catholic university makes the discussion seem out of place. The student insisted that his belief against gay marriage is not homophobic and it's more about "restricting rights and liberties of individuals." The student went on to question the ethics of the situation. "Because they're homosexual, I can't have my opinions?"
"You can have whatever opinions you want but I will tell you right now-in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, sexist comments will not be tolerated," she said. "If you don't like it, you are more than free to drop this class."
So the student took the issue straight to school officials. When Associate Dean Suzanne Foster couldn't help him, he went to the Chair of the Philosophy Department, Nancy Snow. According to the Marquette Warrior blog, Snow blew off the issue.
As the blog points out, this type of avoidance is considered a tactic to win a political argument. Citing The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, the blog quotes: "The proper word for that attitude is totalitarian. It declares certain controversies over and visits serious consequences - from social ostracism to vocational defenestration - upon those who refuse to be silenced.
"The newest closing of the leftist mind is on gay marriage. Just as the science of global warming is settled, so, it seems, are the moral and philosophical merits of gay marriage.
"To oppose it is nothing but bigotry, akin to racism. Opponents are to be similarly marginalized and shunned, destroyed personally and professionally."
The Marquette student has decided to drop Abbate's class and will take another Philosophy class in the future.
"How many students, especially in politically correct departments like Philosophy, simply stifle their disagreement, or worse yet get indoctrinated into the views of the instructor, since those are the only ideas allowed, and no alternative views are aired?" the student blog asks.