An evangelical college professor suspended for wearing a head scarf claims that she wanted to show support to the Muslim community, especially after Pope Francis’s statement that both religions worship the same God.
Wheaton College, situated in Wheaton – an hour west of Chicago – refers to itself as being the ‘Harvard of Christian schools’. It is a small college with about 3,000 students but with a big voice and an inclination to conflicts. The last scandal took place during the summer, when the administration decided to stop offering health insurance plans to its students as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate on birth controls.
The new conflict is centered on Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor who claims that she started wearing the hijab in spirit of solidarity with the Muslim community which is facing more and more attacks after the Paris terrorist acts.
Hawkins says that wearing the hijab is a way of expressing her faith as a Christian who dares others to love their neighbors as they love themselves. However, the college administration claims that their decision of suspending the professor has nothing to do with her covering her head.
According to the administration, the woman posted a Facebook status in which she was quoting Pope Francis saying that both Islam and Christianity are worshiping the same God. A statement like that coming from a professor is contradicting the college’s statement of faith and its foundational theology.
Myra Hooks, a Wheaton College senior defends her professor saying that she wanted to teach a lesson of tolerance and she was punished for it. She wanted to support the Muslim community facing Islamophobia coming mostly from Christians.
Hooks also believes that her teacher’s suspension is not related to theology since her lessons are following the school’s beliefs. She says that the suspension is a measure of damage control taken by the collage out of fear of backlash from conservative Christians if they allow a professor to take such a strong public stance in support of Muslims.
This scandal came at the worst time possible, right during the finals week. Despite that, many supporters of Hawkins have organized sit-ins already lasting for two days, in front of the college president’s office, Philip Ryken and they also met with administrators to negotiate the situation.
On the other side, some students believe that there is a theological conflict, based on the fact that unlike Muslims, Christians believe in a Trinitarian God.
Professor Hawkins says she has no regrets regarding neither her Facebook posts nor wearing the hijab. She will stay on paid leave until the college reviews a theological statement that she has already submitted.
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