Postcard repudiates Mirecki’s remarks

Religious studies board aims to inform department donors about recent controversy

The fundraising and support arm of Kansas University’s religious studies department has mailed a postcard to the thousands of people on its mailing list renouncing the disparaging comments made by professor Paul Mirecki, whose words about Catholicism and religious fundamentalists raised a firestorm recently.

“We repudiate the inappropriate comments in publicized (e-mails) of one of our faculty members, even though we continue to appreciate his scholarly work and teaching,” reads the postcard from Friends of the Department of Religious Studies.

Mirecki planned to teach a religious studies course on intelligent design until his comments on an Internet discussion board about religion and the course sparked sharp criticism. The course was canceled. Mirecki resigned from his post as department chairman, and reported being physically assaulted by two unknown men in an incident he said was connected to the controversy.

The religious studies department recently mailed its annual newsletter that includes an envelope for contributions to the department, but the newsletter was printed too early to include the department’s response to the Mirecki controversy.

“The card is simply an addendum to the newsletter, because people are going to wonder what’s going on,” religious studies professor Tim Miller said.

The Department of Religious Studies postcard.

Miller said the postcard is a statement that the department is continuing its mission.

“This department continues to be committed to open academic inquiry, fair and respectful dialogue, religious tolerance, and appreciation for the important contributions of religions in society,” the postcard reads. “We will work more diligently than ever to merit your confidence.”

Howard Baumgartel, a former member of the Friends of the Department board, said he received the newsletter and figured it had been printed too early to include response to Mirecki’s widely publicized remarks.

“I was very sad that this happened,” he said. “It didn’t win the department many friends. That’s for sure.”

But Baumgartel said he thought the department’s rejection of Mirecki’s comments in the new mailing would help overall.

Kevin Goering, a board member of Friends of the Department, said he didn’t think the controversy would have major consequence for the department.

He said new annual contributions to the organization supporting the department typically amounted to a few thousand dollars and usually weren’t a significant part of the assets that the organization managed. Still, Goering said he thought the postcard was a good move.

“It was important to acknowledge the situation, rather than just totally disregard it,” he said. Goering said the postcard was paid for by Friends of the Department.

Allen Wiechert, a member of Friends of the Department, said he thought the issue was blown out of proportion.

“Mostly what I’ve heard is support for professor Mirecki,” he said.