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Evangelical Wheaton College Suspends Professor for Saying Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God

Larycia Hawkins was placed on administrative leave after she also started wearing a headscarf to express solidarity with Muslims in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.
December 16, 2015, 8:05pm
Image via Wheaton College

Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school outside Chicago, suspended a tenured professor for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same god, and wearing a headscarf during the Christian Advent season. Political science professor Larycia Hawkins said she wore the hijab in order to express solidarity with Muslims, whom she says have been under greater scrutiny following the mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino.

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Hawkins who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, announced her decision to wear the hijab and encouraged other women to do so as well on Facebook last week.

"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," she wrote. "A large scale movement of Women in Solidarity with Hijabs is my Christmas wish this year."

Wheaton College, however, apparently took issue with Hawkins claiming Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Yesterday, the school released a statement saying they placed Hawkins on administrative leave "in response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that [Hawkins] has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam."

While the administration did not expressly forbid Hawkins from wearing the hijab, the statement said that faculty and staff must faithfully represent Wheaton's evangelical Statement of Faith that pledges belief in a Christian god.

Despite the pushback, Hawkins has continued her solidarity campaign. Today, she thanked her supporters and colleagues at Wheaton in a Facebook post that she signed #womeninsolidaritywithhijab?. Hawkins said that she has received criticism almost exclusively from Christians, mostly for her claim conflating Muslim and Christian beliefs.

"My wearing of the hijab as an act of advent devotion has certainly caused some to question the sincerity of my devotion," she wrote on Facebook on Sunday. "To those who question the authenticity of my faith, I love you."

Related: Hijab-Wearing Potential Hire Wins Discrimination Suit Against Abercrombie & Fitch

After Hawkins, who earned her B.A. at Rice University and her Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma, first announced she would be wearing a hijab last week, Wheaton released a prior statement regarding their stance on the relationship between Islam and Christianity. While both religions are monotheistic, the school said, "we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer."

Wheaton added that the administration still respects the constitutional right to religious liberty and wanted to make sure "that we articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions."

Hawkins is on administrative leave "pending a full review." Neither Hawkins nor Wheaton College returned VICE News' requests for comment.