Mirecki resigns leadership position

Colleagues urge professor to give up chairmanship

The embattled Kansas University religious studies professor who drew ire from Christian conservatives for his derisive remarks on an online discussion board has stepped down from his post as department chairman.

“Professor Mirecki said he thought it appropriate to step down and did so on the recommendation of his colleagues in the department, and I have accepted his resignation,” Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said Wednesday. “This allows the department to focus on what’s most important – teaching, research and service – and to minimize the distractions of the last couple of weeks.”

The tenured professor who had planned to teach a course on intelligent design came under fire recently when his remarks about the course and other statements made on an Internet discussion board became public.

Mirecki said the class would “be a nice slap” in the “big fat face” of religious fundamentalists. He later canceled the course.

On Monday, he reported to local authorities that he was beaten by two men who made reference to the controversy. That incident is under investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Kari Wempe, a sheriff’s spokeswoman, said there were no new developments Wednesday.

An interim department chair has not been named.

Tim Miller, a professor in the department of religious studies, said Mirecki has chaired the department for about three and a half years. Miller said he hoped whatever happened next would be for the good of the department. He said he hadn’t seen much of Mirecki recently.

“I don’t think we know very much,” Miller said of the reported incident.

KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz declined to comment Wednesday about Monday’s reported attack.

Andrew Stangl, president of the KU Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, said he was disappointed that the university had not made a formal statement about the attacks and would be quite disappointed if the chancellor or others were not responding because of cowardice or a desire to see the matter go away.

As KU’s Strong Hall keeps quiet in the wake of the reported attack, five of the city’s religious leaders spoke out Wednesday.

Peter Luckey of Plymouth Congregational Church, Thad Holcombe of Ecumenical Christian Ministries, Gary Teske of Trinity Lutheran Church-ELCA, Raymond Fancher of First Presbyterian Church, and Randy Beeman of First Christian Church compiled a statement condemning the reported violence against Mirecki (read the statement).

“As religious leaders in the Lawrence community, we condemn the hate and violence escalating around this whole debate as contrary to the message of the Gospel we proclaim,” the statement read.

Local religious leaders from left, the Rev. Thad Holcombe, campus minister at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, left, the Rev. Gary Teske of Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor of Plymouth Church, have released a statement on the reported attack of Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki.

Peter Luckey, senior pastor of Plymouth, said he wanted the country to know that there were people in Lawrence who were deeply offended by the reported attacks.

Teske, senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran, said he regretted the hurtful things that Mirecki said and also was alarmed at the response.

“I just think there needs to be some voices speaking out and calling for people to tone down,” he said.

Teske said there were options beyond violence in words or deeds.

“It’s the other options that hold the promise of us being able to live together, work together and find a common ground,” he said.