Woman fired over husband's email threat to Minnesota professor

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Professor PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota Morris in the United States, has been receiving email threats for a post made on his Pharyngula blog in support of a University of Central Florida student who took a consecrated host from a Catholic Mass in protest of the church activities. The student began receiving death threats and response, Myers said it was just a "cracker" and if any of his readers could acquire some consecrated Eucharistic hosts he would treat the wafers "with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web." The criticism was fed in part by a press release by the Catholic League and its President Bill Donohue.

Professor PZ Myers

"It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively," Donuhue said in the press release. After consecration, the wafers become the Body of Christ, in the view of Catholics, through a process known as transubstantiation.

After the press release, Myers started receiving death threats. In response to the large number of threats, Myers began posting the entire emails, including IP information. One email in particular was sent from the work account of Melanie Kroll at 1-800-Flowers in Brookhaven, New York that told Myers: "[Y]ou can quit your job for the good of the children. Or you can get your brains beat in."

Posters on his blog contacted the company alerting them to the threat. Subsequently, after an investigation the company fired Kroll. It was later revealed that it was not her, but Charles (Chuck) Kroll, her husband, who sent the email from the default address on her computer.

Greg Laden of ScienceBlogs says that he received an email, which he believes is from Chuck Kroll. In it, Chuck confirms that Melanie was fired. He regrets sending a "moronic" email and explains how he accidentally sent it from the work account of his wife instead of his own home account, both of which are on the same computer. Chuck also accused Myers of unfairly targeting Christianity without the same critique of Islam and blames Myers for his wife's firing.

According to IDG News Service, Myers said: "This was not my intent to get somebody fired." He continued, "She apparently did something stupid, which I don't have sympathy for. I would just rather not see people getting fired over an e-mail message."