Christian prof fired over theologically-based song called 'Little Hitler'
Taylor University, an evangelical Christian institution, removed a professor for singing a song that allegedly violated its values.
The professor believes that his termination was unjust.
The professor asserts that his song was completely appropriate and in line with Christian doctrine.
A professor at Indiana’s Taylor University was fired after refusing to take a controversial song off YouTube.
Jim Spiegel's tenure of over 27 years at the Upland, Indiana institution ended August 24 for composing a song on YouTube titled "Little Hitler," which aimed to make the point that everyone has evil inside of them. According to the Religion News Service, this was announced to the university in an email addressed to the “Taylor University Family.”
Spiegel, who was a professor of philosophy and religion at the university, told Campus Reform that early on August 24 he had a meeting with Taylor Provost Mike Hammond and Dean of the School of Arts, Biblical Studies, and Humanities Tom Jones, as well as a few assistants.
They allegedly then read aloud the letter announcing his dismissal to him.
Spiegel was dismissed after refusing to remove a song he composed, titled “Little Hitler,” from YouTube. In the song, Spiegel sends a message about the Christian doctrine of the “depravity of man” which is connected to the more well-known doctrine of Original Sin that teaches that human beings are born imperfect and sinful.
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For this reason, Spiegel sings that “there’s a little Hitler inside of you, there’s a little Hitler inside of me” continuing with “there’s a brutal killer inside of everyone, the hatred grows naturally.” Spiegel insists that this is a warning about the natural tendency of humans to be hateful and commit horrific acts due to Original Sin.
On August 19, Hammond emailed Spiegel asking him to remove the song from YouTube. The next day, he met in person with Hammond and Jones to discuss the issue. He later responded, refusing to remove “Little Hitler” from the platform.
However, Spiegel said that he did add context in the video’s description, explaining the theological message that the video was intended to convey in place of lyrics. He did not take it down because “to censor the video shows sympathy with, or at least grants plausibility to unreasonable and slanderous accusations” against him. He also refused to remove the video because “compliance to the demand to remove the video would also dangerously encourage TU administrators to censor other TU faculty’s creative works in similarly arbitrary and inappropriate ways.”
According to Taylor University’s student newspaper, The Echo, an email sent to the faculty members charged Spiegel with violating the institution’s biblical values.
The email says that the administration worked toward reconciliation, but claimed that “in this case restoration was not possible.”
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Spiegel had performed the song on multiple past occasions, even for a university-wide audience, without complaint from students or the administration. In 2010, Spiegel said that he performed the song for an audience of more than 1,000 during a chapel service.
He said he performed it another time at a retreat where the full faculty of the University was present. Spiegel said that both times there were neither complaints about the song nor confusion about its message, according to the student newspaper.
Though the university accused Spiegel of violating its Christian principles, he denies this accusation categorically.
In a timeline dealing with the song, Spiegel wrote that “the video itself is theologically orthodox and in no way supportive of violence or anti-Semitism.”
“Those accusations are patently unreasonable and even slanderous," he said, further stating that "any complaints accordingly should be dismissed outright.” He also said “while some people might find the video offensive, this is also true of much Christian art and is even true of Scripture itself.”
Spiegel’s treatment also has potential academic freedom implications. While Taylor University is a Christian institution and is private, it also takes a stance of some sensitivity regarding academic speech under normal circumstances.
Spiegel recognizes this, and told Campus Reform that at Taylor, and other Christian schools, "there are naturally biblical-moral parameters within which faculty and all other community members are expected to operate.” Spiegel believes that he hasn’t violated those parameters, saying “I’ve yet to see anything like a reasonable argument that it does.”
Spiegel claimed that “the University’s lack of censorship of faculty and staff in other cases that are morally objectionable demonstrates an arbitrariness which further undermines its authority in this case,” citing the university’s light treatment of professors who advocate BLM and gay-affirming theology, which contain elements contradicting the university’s Christian mission.
The “Little Hitler” video debacle that led to Spiegel being ousted by the university isn’t the first time Spiegel stood up against the university administration on matters of principle. Spiegel has challenged the status quo at the university for years.
In 2019, The Echo reported that Spiegel and several other faculty members circulated a petition to keep a Starbucks from opening on campus. Spiegel, who wrote the petition, claimed that Starbucks’ pro-abortion and pro-same-sex marriage corporate stances ran contrary to Taylor University’s values. He also voiced support for Taylor University inviting Vice President Mike Pence to speak at its graduation ceremony.
In the past, Taylor has censored conservative voices on its campus, despite its evangelical Christian identity. In 2018, Campus Reform reported that an underground conservative newspaper, Excalibur, was pressured by administrators and students to shut down.
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Campus Reform reached out to Taylor University for comment but didn’t receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @leo_thuman