Wheaton College students took to the steps of their school’s chapel to protest the possible firing of a professor who said Christians and Muslims “worship the same God,” the Chicago Daily Herald reported.
About 100 students gathered in front of the school’s Edman Memorial Chapel on Monday for the protest. Wheaton, an evangelical Christian college outside of Chicago, requires students to attend chapel services three times a week.
“We used this as our worship instead of going into chapel today,” Alicia Artis, a Wheaton College senior and organiser of the protest, told the Daily Herald.
Students are demanding that the school reinstate tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins, who was suspended in December. Hawkins ignited controversy at the school with a Facebook post about Muslims and Christians.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins wrote. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
Though it’s not entirely clear what statement Hawkins was referring to from Pope Francis, in November the pope said that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” according to The Washington Post. The Post also highlighted that The Catholic Church teaches that Muslims and Christians worship one God.
Hawkins also donned a hijab for the Facebook post, which she has described as an act of solidarity with Muslim women.
Hawkins was placed on administrative leave on December 15 as the school determined whether her statement is at odds with the school’s core beliefs. Professors and students at Wheaton must affirm and sign the school’s “Statement of Faith” annually.
Wheaton College disavowed Hawkin’s Facebook post in a statement released in December.
“While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, 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,” the college wrote in a statement responding to Hawkin’s post.
For her part, Hawkins claims Wheaton misinterpreted her statement, which she says was not a theological treatise but about showing support for Muslims.
“The post was not about theology,” Hawkins told NPR. “It was about solidarity, which is a Christian principle.”
She wishes to stay at Wheaton and continue her scholarly work teaching in a Christian setting, she told NPR.
Hawkins’ future is uncertain. Nine tenured professors at Wheaton are due to hear an expulsion trial which will determine whether she can continue teaching at the school, according to Time.
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