A college teacher who lost her job after claiming that Muslims and Christians worshipped the same God, has said she was “flummoxed and flabbergasted” by the decision to fire her.
Dr Larycia Hawkins, a teacher of political science at Wheaton College in Illinois, had been placed on administrative leave following comments she made on Facebook. On Tuesday, the college began termination proceedings against her after claiming she refused to participate in “clarifying conversations” about theological issues.
On Wednesday, Ms Hawkins held a press conference and said would not be intimidated by the college’s action.
“Wheaton College cannot scare me into walking away from the truth that all humans - Muslims, the vulnerable, the oppressed of any ilk - are all my sisters and brothers, and I am called by Jesus to walk with them,” she said, according to the Religious News Service.
Ms Hawkins, who has been at the college since 2007 and is a Christian, found herself at the centre of controversy after making a Facebook post that said: “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.
“I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbour because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind.”
Accompanying her post was a photograph she posted of herself wearing a hijab, a scarf worn by many Muslim women. Wheaton College, an evangelical protestant institution that dates back to 1860 and requires all staff to sign a document supporting its so-called statement of faith. Among the tenets is one that states: "We believe in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life."
The Chicago Tribune said that Ms Hawkins had been asked to affirm the college’s so-called statement of faith four times since she started teaching there. She was also called in by officials after publishing a paper on black liberation theology the provost thought endorsed Marxism.
Answers to frequently asked questions regarding Dr. Larycia Hawkins' administrative leave from Wheaton College: https://t.co/hlgkIMFnh9— Wheaton College (@WheatonCollege) December 24, 2015
The college said it had initiated the termination-for-cause proceeding against Ms Hawkins, but did not specify what precise comments she had made it found objectionable.
“Contrary to some media reports, social media activity and subsequent public perception, Dr Hawkins' paid administrative leave resulted from 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, and is in no way related to her race or gender,” it said.
Several religious leaders, including the Rev Jesse Jackson and Ahmed Rehab of CAIR Chicago, the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed their support for Hawkins.
"It did not to me cause me to wonder whether she was diluting the message of Christianity, but rather taught me what Jesus is about,” said Mr Rehab
As of Wednesday, a change.org petition titled #ReinstateDocHawk had gathered more than 54,000 signatures. That hashtag was being used by the professor’s supporters on Twitter, while those supporting Wheaton’s action took to #ThankYouWheaton.
Next month, Hawkins will have a hearing before the faculty personnel committee of nine tenured and elected faculty members. The committee will make a recommendation to Wheaton President Philip Ryken, who then will make a recommendation to the Wheaton College Board of Trustees, said the RNS.Reuse content