Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution, has disciplined a professor who put on a head scarf in solidarity with Muslims and said they worship the “same God” as Christians.
The private liberal arts college said in a statement on Tuesday that Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science, had been placed on administrative leave over “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of recent remarks she made about the relationship between Christianity and Islam.
“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,” the statement said.
The college president, Philip G. Ryken, emphasized in a statement on Wednesday that Dr. Hawkins’s words, not her appearance in a scarf, were the issue. He said Wheaton had “no stated position on the wearing of head scarves as a gesture of care and concern for those in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution.”
The college and Dr. Hawkins could not immediately be reached for comment. But the disciplinary move appeared to be in response to statements she made on Facebook this month that touched on the monotheistic similarities between the religions.
The college said that as a tenured faculty member, she was entitled to a full review over her leave status. It gave no other details on the length of her leave, its effect on her compensation, or whether she was barred from classes or from the campus.
Last Thursday, Dr. Hawkins posted photographs of herself on Facebook in a Muslim head covering, which she vowed to wear at work, in airplanes and at social events during the weeks before Christmas in solidarity with Muslims facing religious discrimination.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote, in part. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
The next day, Wheaton College said it had received inquiries about remarks on social media by unnamed faculty about the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and their “fundamental differences.”
“Some recent faculty statements have generated confusion about complex theological matters, and could be interpreted as failing to reflect the distinctively Christian theological identity of Wheaton College,” the statement said.
Two days later, Dr. Hawkins said on Facebook that after her gesture of solidarity with Muslims, she had “received pushback almost exclusively from other Christians. The pushback has primarily centered on the claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”
“My wearing of the hijab as an act of advent devotion has certainly caused some to question the sincerity of my devotion,” she said.
The posts drew support on her Facebook page from people who identified themselves as her students, acquaintances at the university and friends.
One former student, Kelsie Wendelberger, who described herself as a graduate of the college, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that Dr. Hawkins was “one of my favorite, most influential professors.”
She noted that Dr. Hawkins quoted the pope, and that the Rev. Billy Graham, the evangelical minister and a graduate of Wheaton, had made similar remarks about other religions, including Muslims being “called by God.”
“Wheaton is holding a double-standard,” Ms. Wendelberger said of the leave imposed on Dr. Hawkins. “I was saddened by it. I thought they reacted the wrong way. They could have made headlines by showing a story of love, by a teacher showing solidarity.”