Dr. Larycia Hawkins is a professor of political science at Wheaton University in Chicago. Wheaton is arguably the most prominent Evangelical institution of higher learning in the United States. She wore a hijab to show solidarity with persecuted Muslims in America. That, in and of itself, was not a problem. However, according to university administrators her demonstration also includes statements that communicate that Allah and Jesus Christ are both God. On theological grounds, this is entirely unacceptable to the university’s mission statement and she was put on administrative leave.
My initial reaction to this story was shock and disappointment. However, I soon got over that conclusion. At stake here is a unique component of entirely private institutions and the liberties and constraints under which they operate. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that private religious educational institutions have the right to hire and fire based upon certain tenets held by the sponsoring religion. These tenets are allowed to be maintained in order to preserve order, institutional mission statements, and the integrity of the religion in question.
Needless to say, the LDS Church watched this ruling by SCOTUS with great interest. Why? Because they hire and fire under the same premises that does Wheaton. Maintaining this type of private status as an employer is key to the mission of Seminaries & Institutes, BYU, and all employees of the Church. Where do you stand on this issue? Let the discussion begin.
Here is a link to Wheaton’s statement in response to Hawkins’ actions and words. This is a fascinating case study dealing with the intersection of private and public institutions. Read on.