updated 12/10/2005 8:46:32 PM ET 2005-12-11T01:46:32

A college professor who drew sharp criticism for comments deriding Christian fundamentalists over “intelligent design” said he was forced out as chairman of the university’s religious studies department.

Paul Mirecki, who remains a professor at the University of Kansas, said he had no choice when he signed the resignation letter, typed on stationary from the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The University penalized me and denied me my Constitutionally protected right to speak and express my mind,” he said in a written statement Friday for the Lawrence Journal-World. He said his career had been ruined and his speaking engagements canceled.

Mirecki also said he had retained an attorney.

The university “has a duty, as a protector of intellectual honesty and debate, to support its teaching staff when controversial issues are raised,” he wrote.

University spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said Saturday that Mirecki resigned the chairmanship last week on the recommendation of faculty members.

The university “stands unequivocally in support of his First Amendment rights and his rights to academic freedom,” Bretz said.

The controversy began with a course Mirecki planned to teach called “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.” The class was proposed after the Kansas Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in its school science standards.

The class was canceled last week after e-mails surfaced in which Mirecki mocked religious conservatives as “fundies” and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a “nice slap in their big fat face.” He has apologized for those comments.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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