Wheaton College moving to fire professor after Muslim statements

Professor said Christians and Muslims worship the same God

  • Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins, who is Christian, has been in conflict with the college over her statements about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God.

    Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins, who is Christian, has been in conflict with the college over her statements about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. Courtesy of Wheaton College

 
 
Updated 1/6/2016 10:13 AM

Wheaton College leaders are taking steps to fire the suspended political science professor who drew criticism late last year for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

College officials confirmed the evangelical Christian school's provost, Stanton Jones, delivered a notice Monday to Wheaton College President Philip Ryken and the professor, Larycia Hawkins, that recommended the initiation of Hawkins' "termination-for-cause" proceedings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The college said it has had frank conversations with Hawkins on doctrinal issues as it pursued the possibility of reconciliation with her but that "Hawkins has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations."

A spokeswoman for Hawkins, Shelly Ruzicka, said the professor wouldn't immediately comment on the effort to fire her but that it comes as she "maintains Christian support for the Muslim community amid the ongoing anti-Muslim climate."

Hawkins, who is Christian, was placed on administrative leave Dec. 15 after she posted photos of herself on Facebook and Twitter wearing a hijab during Advent to show solidarity with Muslims.

Hawkins' posts included written support for Muslims, such as, "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," and, "As Pope Francis stated ... (Christians and Muslims) worship the same God."

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College officials said Hawkins was put on leave to "give more time to explore significant questions regarding the theological implications of her recent public statements."

"As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college's evangelical Statement of Faith," college officials said in a written statement.

"While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer," another statement said.

The termination proceedings will begin with a hearing within the next 30 days before a committee of nine tenured faculty members. The committee will review testimonies and documentary evidence from both sides and then make a recommendation regarding Hawkins' tenure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ryken will consider recommendations from the committee and Jones before making his own recommendation to the college's board of trustees. The board will make the final decision regarding Hawkins' employment.

Arise Chicago, a workplace group that has supported Hawkins, said Jones' notice to Hawkins cites her "unqualified assertion of religious solidarity with Muslims and Jews" as the basis for seeking her termination.

Hawkins, Arise Chicago said, will discuss the matter further Wednesday morning in Chicago. The group said clergy and Wheaton College students and alumni also will attend the session.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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