Education

Christian College Wants To Fire Prof Who Said Christians, Muslims Worship Same God

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Blake Neff Reporter
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One of America’s most prominent evangelical Christian colleges is moving to fire a professor who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Originally, Wheaton College in Illinois only suspended professor Larycia Hawkins indefinitely for her Dec. 10 Facebook post where she announced she would wear a hijab until Christmas — in solidarity with Muslims facing bigotry. But now a dispute over theology seems likely to cost Hawkins her job entirely.

In a statement released Tuesday, Wheaton administrators said an “impasse” over Hawkins’ punishment was forcing the college’s hand.

“Following Dr. Hawkins’ written response on December 17 to questions regarding her theological convictions, the College requested further theological discussion and clarification,” the statement says. “However … Dr. Hawkins declined to participate in further dialogue about the theological implications of her public statements and her December 17 response.”

Because Hawkins is tenured, the firing process for her will be-drawn out and has some potential roadblocks. Within the next 30 days she will have a hearing before a committee of nine faculty members who will hear testimony and then make a recommendation to President Philip Ryken. The president, in turn, will make a recommendation to Wheaton’s board of trustees. The board will have the final say on whether to fire Hawkins.

At the heart of the dispute is Hawkins’ claim in her Dec. 10 Facebook post that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she said at the time. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Wheaton administrators argued that Hawkins’ statement overlooked critical differences between the two faiths, and suspended her shortly afterwards. Wheaton is an evangelical Protestant college, and all faculty members are required to sign a statement of faith reflecting Protestant values. The school takes religious adherence seriously; in 2006 a philosophy professor was dismissed for converting to Catholicism.

After submitting a theological statement for the college to review, Hawkins became defiant, claiming she did nothing wrong and did nothing to violate Wheaton’s statement of faith. She has been supported by some students and local ministers who publicly came to her defense.

Just before Christmas, Hawkins claimed the school pressured her to resign, a request she refused. She also rejected an offer that would have allowed her to return next fall if she gave up tenure for two years. (RELATED: Christian Prof’s Gesture Of Solidarity Could Cost Her A Job)

The school’s move to terminate Hawkins could also be partially driven by previous clashes with administrators on matters of religious orthodoxy. Last year, she was questioned over photos that showed her attending a house party the day of Chicago’s gay pride parade. Several years ago, she landed in hot water over a paper the school thought might endorse Marxism, which is also seen as incompatible with the statement of faith.

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