Larycia Hawkins was the first female African-American tenured professor at a Christian evangelical college – but when she started wearing a hijab to work, it didn’t go over so well.
Hawkins was hired to teach political science at Wheaton College in Illinois in 2007. College officials state she was asked to affirm the school’s statement of faith four different times over the years, after a series of incidents that had them questioning whether her views were in line with what the school represented.
According to the NY Times, after a year or two into her job, Hawkins “developed a distaste for performances of patriotism and decided to stop saluting the flag and singing the national anthem.”
After the San Bernardino attack, Hawkins started wearing a hijab “to show solidarity with Muslims,” who she believed were being persecuted after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.
On December 10, 2015, she posted the following on Facebook: “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
The backlash at first was fierce, with students, parents, donors and alumni protesting. Religious leaders stood on opposite sides over the issue -evangelist Franklin Graham responded with “Shame on her!” while Jesse Jackson compared her to Rosa Parks.
In February, the school announced they had placed Hawkins on “administrative leave” because of her 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.”
The NY Times has written an editorial describing a “reconciliation service” that took place three days after Hawkins agreed to step down from her job. She told the crowd that “Christianity is inherently political and that bubbles are made to burst.”
The campus became divided on the issue, with some wanting her out because she was no longer in line with the school’s Christian teachings, and others wanting her to stay. In the end, she chose to leave and the school gave her a confidential settlement.
Fox News reported in March that Hawkins had joined the University of Virginia, where she will now do research on Islam. She was named the “Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow” at the Charlottesville school’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.
NY Times reported that in June Hawkins flew to Turkey with a Chicago-based Islamic nonprofit organization to meet with Syrian refugees.
NY Times writer Ruth Graham who interviewed Hawkins in her new office said, “We talked about Wheaton and about Jesus, about her evolving faith and about Donald Trump. If conservatives in Wheaton’s constituency were disturbed by her Facebook post, they would most likely not have been comforted by our conversation.”
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