Illinois professor says Christian college is wrong to try firing her for Islam comments

A professor at a Chicago-area Christian college said Wednesday that administrators were wrong in taking steps to fire her after she asserted that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Larycia Hawkins told reporters she met with Wheaton College administrators several times and provided statements explaining her beliefs, which she believes are line up with the college's mission. She said she was initially told further discussion wasn't needed but college officials then changed requirements, saying her tenure would be revoked while she would have to participate in two years of conversations.

Hawkins spoke Wednesday surrounded by religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Wheaton College said it placed Hawkins on administrative leave in December because of 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."

Hawkins began to wear a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims, whom she felt were being persecuted in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting and the terror attacks in Paris. She told reporters last month her actions were “motivated by a desire to live out my faith.”

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

The school insists that is not why she was placed on leave.

The college said it has had frank conversations with Hawkins on doctrinal issues as it pursued the possibility of reconciliation with her but that "Hawkins has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations."

The Chicago Tribune reported that Hawkins had been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton College nine years go. Hawkins and the school have butted heads over a paper relating the Bible and race relations in America, a photo taken of her inside a home at a party on the same day as Chicago’s Pride Parade and suggesting the college's curriculum should include sensitive vocabulary for talks concerning sexuality, according to the paper.

Hawkins now faces a hearing with the college’s Faculty Personnel Committee, according to the Tribune.

The panel is made up of nine tenured faculty members. After hearing from both sides, the panel will make a recommendation on Hawkins' continued employement to Wheaton College President Philip Ryken.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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