Protests and prayer marked the first day of the spring semester at Wheaton College after an acrimonious holiday break during which the evangelical school pushed ahead with termination proceedings against a tenured professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Despite wind chills dipping below zero, several dozen students gathered on the steps of the evangelical school’s Edman Memorial Chapel Monday (Jan. 11) with signs reading, “Academic Rigor = Academic Freedom.” Others chanted “Reinstate Doc Hawk” over the ringing of the chapel bells.
Wheaton administrators did not permit media onto the suburban Chicago campus to allow students to reconnect with the campus without distraction, but a handful of reporters and photographers gathered on the sidewalk just outside the gates.
Last week, the college confirmed it had started termination proceedings against Larycia Hawkins who wore a Muslim headscarf during the Advent period preceding Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslim believers. Her case now goes to a faculty review board.
The political science professor, who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, also posted a photo of herself wearing a hijab on her personal Facebook page.
Wheaton has said it took issue not with the professor’s photo, but with her justification for it. She wrote on Facebook, “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.”
Hawkins stood by her belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, something the college has said seems “inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.”
On Sunday, Hawkins again took to Facebook, this time encouraging supporters not to “demonize” Wheaton or its administration, but to shower all concerned, particularly Provost Stan Jones, “with thoughts and prayers and actions that emanate love, grace, peace, and if necessary, forgiveness.”
“Students still believe that reconciliation is possible by reinstating Dr. Hawkins with tenure immediately, ending the termination process, and issuing a public apology to Dr. Hawkins,” reads a statement from students identified as “supporters of #reinstatedochawk.”
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