Illinois Christian college seeks to fire professor for comments on Islam


Officials at a Chicago Christian college said Tuesday they are moving forward with firing a professor who was placed on leave after asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Provost Stanton Jones initiated the termination-for-cause proceeding after Larycia Hawkins refused to participate in clarifying the comments she made about the two religions, Wheaton College said in a statement on its website.

Wheaton College said it placed Hawkins on administrative leave in December because of theological statements “that seem inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions, which she voluntarily agreed to support and uphold when she entered into an employment agreement with the college.”

Hawkins began to wear a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims, whom she felt were being persecuted in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and the terror attacks in Paris perpetuated by Muslim extremists. She told reporters last month her actions were “motivated by a desire to live out my faith.”

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

The school insists that is not why she was placed on leave.

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.”

The Chicago Tribune reported that Hawkins had been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton College nine years go. Hawkins and the school have butted heads over a paper relating the Bible and race relations in America, a photo taken of her inside a home at a party on the same day as Chicago’s Pride Parade and suggesting the college’s curriculum should include sensitive vocabulary for talks concerning sexuality, according to the paper.

A spokeswoman for Hawkins, Shelly Ruzicka, said the professor had no immediate comment on the effort to fire her but she “maintains Christian support for the Muslim community amid the ongoing anti-Muslim climate.”

Hawkins now faces a hearing with the college’s Faculty Personnel Committee, according to the Tribune.

The panel is made up of nine tenured faculty members. After hearing from both sides, the panel will make a recommendation on Hawkins’ continued employement to Wheaton College President Philip Ryken.

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