No, Wheaton Didn’t Suspend a Professor for Wearing a Hijab

Brittany M. Hughes | December 16, 2015
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(Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

Social media lit up Wednesday morning with a series of click-bait headlines, all slightly different variations of the same general message: “Wheaton College Suspends Professor for Wearing a Hijab.”

So naturally, I clicked.

For the few who may not know, a hijab is the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women as a tenant of their Islamic faith. Larycia Hawkins, a tenured political science professor at Wheaton, had snapped a selfie while wearing the garment and posted it to Facebook on Dec. 10, along with a statement that, in part, reads:

"I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity. 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."

Hawkins didn’t ask permission from the college to post the photo or the statement, but did consult with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to make sure she wouldn’t offend any Muslims with her post.

A few days later, administrators at the private evangelical school suspended Hawkins, and social media caught fire over the professor who was canned for daring to stand against Islamophobia. 

But did the college really suspend Hawkins for wearing a head scarf, or for standing in solidarity against religious discrimination? According to the school, no.

The college released a statement following some backlash over their decision, explaining Hawkins was suspended for promoting a line of theology that goes against the school’s Statement of Faith. From the school’s statement:

"Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity. As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college's evangelical Statement of Faith."

"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. We will be in dialogue with our faculty, staff and students in the days ahead to ensure that we articulate our love for our Muslim neighbors in ways that are consistent with our distinctive theological convictions."

According to the Daily Herald, Wheaton President Philip Ryken added the school doesn’t have a problem with faculty wearing head scarves as a display against discrimination:

In a separate statement, President Philip Ryken said Wheaton College "has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution. We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States."


But don't mind any of these points. They're only the facts.