KU professor Paul Mirecki was hospitalized Monday morning after two men beat him on the side of the road in rural Douglas County, he said.

Mirecki said the two men beat him for about one minute with a metal object, striking him repeatedly on the head, shoulders and back.

Mirecki, chairman of the department of religious studies, drew criticism from University officials and state legislators last week after e-mails he had sent to a list server became public.

In the messages, he made remarks about Christian fundamentalists that some considered offensive, including the message that the intelligent design class he planned to teach in the spring would serve as “a nice slap in their big fat face.” He apologized and canceled the class last week.

He said the assailants made reference to the intelligent design controversy during the attack. . . .

Sen. Kay O’Connor (R-Olathe), who has strongly criticized Mirecki for his e-mails, said whoever beat him should be “prosecuted to the fullest.”

“If they try to cover themselves under the mantle of being Christian or being Christian people, sorry Charlie,” she said. “They’re just thugs.”

All my best wishes for a speedy recovery to Prof. Mirecki, and my praise to Sen. O'Connor, both for defending someone whose views she disagrees with, and for calling a thug a thug.