A Christian college in the western suburbs of Chicago has begun the process of firing a professor who recently caused controversy for claiming that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God.
Wheaton College, a Christian college founded in 1860 by activists seeking the abolition of slavery, announced that it is formally undertaking steps to fire tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins after her recent activism in support of Islam.
In December, Hawkins, who has been teaching at Wheaton since 2007, began wearing a hijab in support of Islam and also insisted in posts to social media that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. After her actions brought controversy to the university, officials suggested that she resign her post. Hawkins refused.
Now, school provost Stanton Jones has informed the professor that the administration is taking steps to fire her.
Hawkins received a letter that reads in part, “The Notice is not a termination; rather, it begins Wheaton College’s established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members.”
The private evangelical college confirmed the actions on its website.
In its statement, the school noted that the specific reason for the termination procedure has nothing to do with her wearing a hijab but stems from the school’s feeling that her religious ideas are “inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.”
“The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College,” the statement reads. “Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.”
In defense of her actions, Hawkins says that she wasn’t comparing Jesus and Mohammad. In comments made to the local PBS show Chicago Tonight, Hawkins said that her recent statements “absolutely” were not contrary to the college’s Christian ideals. “What I said in my post has been affirmed by the Christian church for centuries and has been affirmed by many prominent evangelicals,” she insisted.
Hawkins went on to tell the PBS host that Muslims and Christians worship the same God “differently.”
“In no way did I make a moral equivalency between Jesus and Muhammad or Islam and Christianity. That would be offensive to my Muslim friends and to my Christian friends to pretend that the religions are the same, that they’re not different, either in practice or theology,” she said.
Hawkins also insisted that her Facebook post “wasn’t a theological treatise. It was simply a Facebook post inviting people into a bigger narrative about embodied solidarity with Muslims, who are currently being maligned and mistreated for their religious devotion.”
Still, the professor’s December Facebook post isn’t the only time the college has expressed concern that her religious views are incompatible with that of the college.
According to The Chicago Tribune, college administrators have had three previous formal discussions with the professor over views they have found problematic.
It appears that the professor’s December actions and her claims that Christians and Muslims worship the same God are merely the next entry in a long series of confrontations.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.