ACU rejects claims of interference over academic freedom

Virgin Mary birth queried

The Australian Catholic University has defended itself over allegations of interference in academic freedom when it demanded a note be placed in a scholarly journal, against the editor’s wishes, reports The Australian.

The university came under fire this week after it was revealed that the editor of the Journal of Religious Education, Jan Grajczonek, a senior lecturer in ACU’s education faculty, resigned after being pressured to publish the notice. The furore erupted after an article by former ACU academic Maurice Ryan used a source which said 'Jesus was conceived in the normal way' and not to a virginal mother.

But the university said it was just trying to give primary school teachers guidance. 'The journal’s audience is primarily school teachers not theologians,' said Claire Wyatt-Smith, ACU’s executive dean of education and arts, in a statement.

'Consistent with editorial board discussion, the note was included in the next edition of the journal offering clarification for teachers of religious education that the article was not a reflection of the opinion of Australian Catholic University, nor the Faculty of Education. This was by no means a retraction or correction but was intended to alert teachers of the need to exercise care in using the article.'

But Dr Ryan, who has published extensively in the journal over several years, said the JRE had a broad readership that included school teachers, but also included theologians, researchers and postgraduate students, both in Australia and overseas. 'The journal has a wide readership. I’m not sure primary school teachers are the primary audience,' Dr Ryan said.

Dr Ryan said he was flummoxed as to why the reference to the virgin birth had been singled out. 'Why did they pick on that particular part of the article? Nearly every single article published in the journal doesn’t conform to the Catholic catechisms,' Dr Ryan said.

In her statement, Professor Wyatt-Smith said: 'Intellectual freedom and high scholarship is greatly prized at ACU. Australian Catholic University is committed to the highest quality study, research and publication.'

FULL STORY ACU says it did not interfere with academic freedom over Virgin Mary (The Australian)

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