Kansas University’s Paul Mirecki, the controversial religious studies professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he derided Christian conservatives as “fundies,” was allegedly beaten on Monday morning by two unidentified white men who he claims targeted him for his views. The Lawrence Journal World reported:
Douglas County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the reported beating of a Kansas University professor who gained recent notoriety for his Internet tirades against Christian fundamentalists.
Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki reported he was beaten by two men about 6:40 a.m. today on a roadside in rural Douglas County. In a series of interviews late this afternoon, Mirecki said the men who beat him were making references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.
“I didn’t know them, but I’m sure they knew me,” he said.
Mirecki said he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.
“I just pulled over hoping they would pass, and then they pulled up real close behind,” he said. “They got out, and I made the mistake of getting out.”
He said the men beat him about the upper body with their fists, and he said he thinks they struck him with a metal object. He was treated and released at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
“I’m mostly shaken up, and I got some bruises and sore spots,” he said.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Officials are classifying the case as an aggravated battery. They wouldn’t say exactly where the incident happened, citing the ongoing investigation.
The sheriff’s department is looking for the suspects, described as two white males between ages 30 and 40, one wearing a red visor and wool gloves, and both wearing jeans. They were last seen in a large pickup truck…
If Mirecki was indeed the victim of this alleged crime, it is a travesty and a shame, and the alleged assailants should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
If a pickup truck was driving behind you in the early morning in a deserted rural area, and two men got out holding a large metal object, and you were still in your car, would you get out to go talk with them? … How did those in the pickup truck find him? Were they waiting at his house? In that case Dr. Mirecki should have noticed them right away. How would they just randomly find him in the middle of the country?
Asking such questions may seem mean-spirited, but given the prevalence of staged hate crimes since the Tawana Brawley hoax two decades ago, skepticism is warranted. Just last year, an assistant visiting professor at Claremont McKenna College was sentenced to prison after she staged an anti-Semitic hate crime against herself. Earlier this year, a lesbian student at Mt. Tamalpais High School in Marin County, Calif., faked several anti-gay incidents to garner attention and sympathy.
Curiously, earlier Wednesday, Mirecki resigned the chairmanship of KU’s religious studies department. (Resignation letter here.) According to Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Mirecki resigned on the recommendation of his colleagues. Strange. Do they know something we don’t?
I obtained the front sheet of the police report filed Monday from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (redacted to protect Mirecki’s personal information):
As you can see (click for larger view), there’s not much there. In a phone interview, sheriff’s spokeswoman Lt. Kari Wempe could not provide much more detail. She did tell me that Mirecki could not recall where the incident took place. And she said that 20 minutes ensued between the time the incident allegedly occured and when Mirecki reportedly contacted authorities. “It seems like a long time to me,” Wempe noted, but declined to elaborate.
More weirdness via the University Daily Kansas.com: Officers clarify Mirecki attack details.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office initially labeled the attack on Professor Paul Mirecki a hate crime.
But the office removed the title today, calling the labeling a mistake.
Lt. Kari Wempe said that the error occurred Monday morning when the attack was reported.
Officers wrongly transmitted the information over the police radio, she said. It is not classified as an aggravated battery.
So what exactly is it?
I contacted the Lawrence Memorial Hospital for more details on the nature of Mirecki’s injuries. Citing HIPAA regulations, a hospital spokeswoman declined to provide any more information. She did state that Mirecki was not hospitalized, as many MSM reports have claimed, but came to the emergency room and was “treated and released.”
On Wednesday, Mirecki said he would no longer be giving interviews to the media.
“I’ve got too much of backlash from the reporting,” he said.
One of Mirecki’s colleagues, professor Timothy Miller, who once headed the department, said members of the faculty talked with Mirecki about his options before he made his decision to resign.
“There’s been lots of conversations about what’s good for professor Mirecki and what’s good for the department,” Miller said. “I hope this new development will be positive on both fronts.”
Miller said he hoped Mirecki and the department could put the controversy behind them. There are students to teach and finals are coming up.
“We’re living under quite a cloud and quite a burden these days,” Miller said. “Paul has had a pretty rugged two weeks, and we’ve got work to do.”
Bloggers covering the story from all sides:
Brainster’s Blog is skeptical. So is Sean Gleeson.
[Margaret] Rausch [an assistant professor of religious studies] said she last saw Mirecki at the religious studies department’s monthly faculty meeting on Monday [the same day as the alleged attack] and noticed “big swollen spots” on his face.
“It transformed his face,” she said.
Jesse Plous, New York senior, and Tiffany Jeffers, Shawnee senior, are enrolled in Mirecki’s Dead Sea Scrolls class. They said they didn’t notice bruises or scratches when they met for class at 12:30 p.m. Monday [about six hours after the alleged attack].
Lindsay Mayer, Holbrook, Ariz., junior, another student in the class, said she might have seen a small bruise on the side of his face, but said injuries weren’t extremely noticeable.
Mirecki didn’t show up for class on Wednesday. The students said Mirecki had never mentioned the controversy in class.
“It’s a good class, it really is,” said Plous. “It’s too bad he’s been steeped in controversy. I hope it pans out for the guy.”
Meanwhile, a Daily Kos diarist claims the attack is a “terrorist act as defined by the Patriot Act” but backs down from his claim that the alleged beating left Mirecki “within [an] inch of his life.”
Hate crime hoax at Ole Miss
Unhinged: The Mugshot Collection [scroll down to Kerri Dunn]