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Professor Facing Termination Over Religious Views Disputes Wheaton College’s Account

CHICAGO ― The professor of a Christian college who asserted Christians and Muslims worship the same God said Wednesday that her views are in line with the suburban Chicago college’s mission and disputed university accounts of interactions with administrators who’ve taken steps to fire her.

Larycia Hawkins, who’s Christian, was placed on leave at Wheaton College in December after posting her views on Facebook. She also wore a headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims. College officials placed her on leave in December for having inconsistent views with the college’s “doctrinal convictions.” On Tuesday, they said she refused to participate in “clarifying conversations” about theological issues and initiated termination-for-cause proceedings.

However, Hawkins disagreed with that notion during a news conference Wednesday at a downtown Chicago church where she received backing from religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Hawkins, a political science professor, said she met with administrators several times after the Facebook posting and provided statements explaining her beliefs which she believes line up with the college’s mission. Hawkins said she was told further discussions weren’t required, but college officials then changed their requirements and said she would have to participate in two years of ongoing conversations during which time her tenure would be revoked. She said university officials advised her to get an attorney, and the next communication was the notice of termination proceedings.

“The rules changing, the goal post keeps moving. And I said, ‘I have dignity, I’ve answered your questions and my statement stands,’” she said Wednesday.

Students, alumni, professors and clergy members from several faiths spoke Wednesday in support of Hawkins, with Jackson comparing her to Rosa Parks. Hawkins, who has been at the university since 2007, detailed her religious upbringing in Oklahoma as the granddaughter of a pastor.

She defended her views, saying that she believed Muslims, Christians and Jews were all “people of the book.”

College officials have said they had had frank conversations with Hawkins on doctrinal issues as they pursued the possibility of reconciliation with her but that she “has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations.”

A university official did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Wednesday.

The termination process involves a hearing before a faculty committee and a decision by the college’s board of trustees.

Nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend Wheaton College, which is roughly 30 miles from Chicago.

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