Wheaton College Begins Process to Fire Hijab-Wearing Professor Over Muslim Solidarity Comments

Last month, Wheaton College suspended Professor Larycia Hawkins. Her offense? Stating, in defense of her decision to wear a headscarf in a show of solidarity with Muslims, that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. After complaints about the comments, Wheaton administrators put her on leave and said they were reviewing the case.

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In a press release on Tuesday, the school confirmed that it is beginning the termination process against Hawkins.

Wheaton College can confirm reports that on January 4, 2016, per College policies and procedures, Provost Stanton Jones delivered to President Philip Ryken and to Dr. Larycia Hawkins a Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination-for-Cause Proceedings regarding Dr. Hawkins.

The Notice is not a termination; rather, it begins Wheaton College’s established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members.

This Notice follows the impasse reached by the parties. Following Dr. Hawkins’ written response on December 17 to questions regarding her theological convictions, the College requested further theological discussion and clarification. However, as posted previously, Dr. Hawkins declined to participate in further dialogue about the theological implications of her public statements and her December 17 response.

The referenced statement says pretty much the same thing: that Dr. Hawkins, at some point after “extremely frank conversation and communication,” refused to provide “further theological clarification.” There is, likewise, the requisite emphasis on the blamelessness of the school itself in all of this.

Wheaton College worked vigorously and in good faith to pursue the possibility of reconciliation with Dr. Hawkins. Extremely frank conversation and communication took place in recent days toward that end. On the part of the College, further theological clarification is necessary before such reconciliation can take place, and unfortunately Dr. Hawkins has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations. This represents an impasse on our efforts toward reconciliation.

It’s hard to imagine what Dr. Hawkins might have left out of those “extremely frank” conversations across multiple days that Wheaton wanted to hear; more likely, she simply refused to back down from her position. That the school has provided no “further clarification” itself as to what it’s looking for doesn’t help clarify the matter.

On the contrary, it seems as if Hawkins may lose her job for nothing more than observing the fact that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God. It’s particularly absurd since the offending comments were not passing any judgment on whether or not Muslims worship God in the right fashion, or if they got their theology right, or anything like that. Wheaton’s objection to her comments is that

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.

As an institution of distinctively evangelical Christian identity, the core of our faith, as expressed in our Statement of Faith, is our belief that “the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.” We affirm that salvation is through Christ alone.

None of that, to be clear, was contradicted in the original Facebook post made by Hawkins. She wrote:

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

It’s perfectly possible for someone to acknowledge the fact that both faiths share belief in the same God, while holding Wheaton’s position that the other guys are still going to Hell because they have the details all wrong.

Heck, people within the same faith often believe this about each other.

What’s surprising is that Wheaton’s administrators are so hung up on this point that they’d even consider firing a professor who said what so many devout evangelical Christians readily believe.

(via Think Progress)

About Rachel Ford

Rachel Ford is a programmer, and since 8:00 to 5:00 doesn't provide enough opportunity to bask in screen glare, she writes in her spare time. She was raised a very fundamentalist Christian, but eventually "saw the light." Rachel's personal blog is Rachel's Hobbit Hole, where she discusses everything from Tolkien to state politics.