Paul Mirecki

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Paul Mirecki is Bible scholar and associate professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas and the faculty advisor for the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics student organization. He was chairman of the department until he stepped aside on December 7, 2005.

Mirecki earned a Th.D. in Theology from Harvard University, worked with John Strugnell to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls, and was one of the most recent persons to discover and translate an unknown gospel.

Early life[edit]

Mirecki was reared as a Roman Catholic in Worth, Illinois, a southwestern suburb of Chicago. His parents wanted him to be a priest. Instead, he took to music. In the late 1960s, he attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, majoring in musical composition and playing classical guitar and piano. He dropped out early to work, but returned to college in 1973, pursuing religious studies at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After teaching stints at the University of Michigan and Albion College, Mirecki joined the University of Kansas faculty in 1989.

At the top of the "academic resume" section of his website, Mirecki has an image of Mr. Van Driessen, the liberal hippie teacher of Beavis and Butt-head, with the caption, "(Actual photo of Paul Mirecki)".

Intelligent Design controversy[edit]

Mirecki achieved notoriety in late November 2005 for making derogatory comments about adherents of intelligent design. Mirecki was to teach a class in spring 2006 on the topic Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design and Creationism. (The original title was to have been Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies, but the phrase "Other Religious Mythologies" was removed on November 28 [1].) The class was a response to a November 8 ruling by the Kansas State Board of Education designed to allow Kansas public school students to hear more criticism of evolution in class. Mirecki had previously led a group of KU faculty in creating a parody creationist organization called Families for Learning Accurate Theories (F.L.A.T.) in 1999 in response to and ridicule of creationists on the Kansas Board of Education who decided to de-emphasize the teaching of evolution.

In emails to the Society for Open Minded Atheists and Agnostics, Mirecki commented on the course's perspective on intelligent design, saying, "The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category 'mythology'." Mirecki signed the note, "Doing my part to piss off the religious right, Evil Dr. P." He later apologized for these words and urged that the class be canceled.

The course was withdrawn on December 1, 2005, with the support of University of Kansas Provost David Shulenburger. Some conservative political activists were not satisfied with the university's response and called for sanctions against Mirecki or for his dismissal.

On December 5, 2005, Mirecki reported that he was accosted and beaten by two unidentified men. He was treated and released from Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Mirecki has stated that the men made reference to the recent controversy over the class while being senselessly beaten without mercy. On December 7, Mirecki stepped down from his post as department chair. Mirecki denounced the university as being not supportive of him and his First Amendment rights, and said he had faced an increase in harassment since the chancellor publicly called his email commentary "repugnant and vile." He also criticized the police as treating him more like a criminal than a victim, saying they had confiscated his car and his computer and had interrogated him for up to five hours straight [2].

Despite a Lawrence Journal-World photo showing two black eyes and a bruise [3], Michelle Malkin and criminology professor Mike Adams suggested in separate columns at Townhall.com, a conservative website, that Mirecki had fabricated his story of the assault, [4] [5]. Michelle Malkin, in particular, noted the statements of students who were in his classes the same day as the alleged attack who pointed out that for a guy who got worked over by two rednecks with a crowbar the professor seemed remarkably unbruised.

The University of Kansas issued a press release on December 10 affirming that it stood behind Mirecki unequivocally, that it deplored the violence against him, that he remained a tenured professor, that he had resigned as department chair voluntarily on the recommendation of the department faculty, that he had canceled his course on intelligent design as mythology voluntarily, but that the university "continues to believe the course has merit and should be taught in the future."

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