Under Attack -- Literally -- in Kansas

Police investigate roadside assault on professor who planned course critical of intelligent design.
December 7, 2005

Paul Mirecki, the University of Kansas professor whose online comments about religion and intelligent design set off a furor in his state, was treated Monday for injuries during what law enforcement officials are calling an "aggravated battery" on him.

Mirecki reported that while driving on a rural road, he pulled over when two men in a pickup truck seemed to be following him too closely. While Mirecki expected them to pass, they too pulled over, and attacked him. While he was briefly treated at a local hospital, he was able to teach at the university later in the day.

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County sheriff's department said that "aggravated battery" means either that a beating was particularly intense or involved an object.

Mirecki was not available for comment, but he told local reporters that the two men who attacked him knew who he was and made reference to the recent controversy over his online statements about religion and intelligent design.

A spokeswoman for the University of Kansas said that officials there were concerned about the situation and had met with Mirecki to discuss his security.

Mirecki is the chair of the religious studies department at Kansas. Last month, he announced plans to offer a new course in the spring that would examine intelligent design, which is a hot topic in Kansas because the State Board of Education -- over the objections of scientists nationwide -- has adopted guidelines under which it could be taught in high schools along with evolution.

He withdrew the course last week, after several batches of his postings to a listserv were published in newspapers. Those comments -- for which he has since apologized -- made fun of religious fundamentalists and Roman Catholics.


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