Backers say Baylor prof faces firing for his views

December 1, 2011

A Baylor University professor is fighting dismissal charges that
supporters say are aimed at silencing a dissident voice in America's
Jewish community.

According to published reports, Marc Ellis,
university professor of Jewish studies and director of Baylor's Center
for Jewish Studies, said during a November 21 speech to the American
Academy of Religion that he has become a victim of "selectively
enforced" policies regarding practices that are routinely overlooked.

Ellis,
an expert in Holocaust studies and liberation theology, said former
Baylor presidents defended his outspoken opposition to U.S. and Israeli
policy toward Palestinians. He claimed that current Baylor president and
former Bill Clinton prosecutor Kenneth Starr was personally involved in
efforts to fire him, a charge denied by Baylor spokeswoman Lori
Fogleman.

Neither side is discussing details of the charges. Ellis
has hired a lawyer to fight his dismissal on the basis that he is a
tenured professor. Several high-profile individuals have come to his
aid. Princeton scholar Cornel West, feminist theologian Rosemary Ruether
and Archbishop Desmond Tutu cosponsored an online petition on his
behalf to "stop persecution" of a dissident voice.

Fogleman told the Waco Tribune-Herald
that the charges against Ellis have nothing to do with his exercise of
academic freedom, but due to privacy rules she could not go into the
details without the professor's permission.

Ellis's attorney,
Roger Sanders, questioned whether timing of formal charges filed
November 18, just three days before Ellis was to be honored by the
10,000-member American Academy of Religion at its San Francisco annual
meeting, was intended to embarrass the professor. Fogleman said the
dates were coincidental and that the charges came after a period of due
process.

Ellis told the academy that his duties were curtailed
after the investigation began. He said all of his classes for the fall
semester were canceled unilaterally, and he was stymied in efforts to
bring West, an acknowledged scholar and frequent commentator on
political talk shows, to the campus in Waco, Texas.

Ruether,
visiting professor at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont
Graduate University, told the Waco newspaper that Baylor wants to get
rid of Ellis because it considers his views on Israel too controversial.
She said she believes that Ellis is willing to accept severance,
because the Baylor environment is unfriendly and he is near retirement
age. She wondered why the university didn't negotiate with Ellis instead
of risking notoriety by firing him.  —ABP

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