A professor at Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school in Illinois, has suspended after her Facebook post that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”
The official school statement about Associate Professor Larycia Hawkins’s suspension said that professors should “speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”
The next day 100 people protested Ms Hawkins enforced leave after both the college’s President Philip Ryken and later Provost Stanton Jones said they would not lift the suspension.
Protesters chanted “Reinstate Doc Hawk,” “We love Wheaton!” and some evangelical women even wore hijabs to express solidarity with her.
Hawkins was also seen wearing a hijab in a Facebook post, explaining she planned to do so through the entire Christian season of Advent to show “human solidarity” with Muslims.
She didn’t return requests for comments but hundreds of people reportedly liked her post and more praised her in comments.
“I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind,” Wheaton wrote. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book…”
She later linked to a Christianity Today interview with Yale theologian Miroslav Volf on the topic. In the piece, Volf said that “all Christians don’t worship the same God, and all Muslims don’t worship the same God. But I think that Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God…”
A sophomore, who studies international relations, wore a hijab to the protest to show solidarity with Muslims and said Hawkins “has been a place of solace and solidarity” particularly for marginalized people, and is a support for black students”.
“I think she meant Islam and Christianity and Judaism all derive from a history and are all monotheistic; we come from the same Abrahamic history. Why are we comfortable with Catholics and Jews, but remain quiet when Muslims are persecuted?” the 19 year old student who grew up in Uganda and now lives in the D.C. region asked.
A Wheaton staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the suspension “sets a precedent for what professors can post on their Facebook page. If Dr. Hawkins is being used as a scapegoat that will send a message to those of us who are employed full time.”
The suspension took place about a week after Wheaton College student leaders published an open letter in their student newspaper denouncing recent controversial comments by Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell. Speaking to thousands of students about terrorism, Falwell urged them to arm themselves, against Muslims. But later said he meant only “violent radicals”.
The college’s administrators later praised the open letter, saying they agreed with students’ effort to “address our nation’s challenges through respecting the dignity of all people, rejecting religious discrimination and pursuing peace …over hostility.”