A tenured Christian professor at Wheaton College in Illinois has been placed on administrative leave after she started wearing a headscarf as a show of solidarity with Muslims, the Chicago Tribune reports. Larycia Hawkins says she plans on keeping the hijab on until Christmas as part of her Advent worship, even during her travels home to Oklahoma for the holidays. "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," reads her Facebook post from Thursday. "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God." It's not clear what statement of the pope's she's referring to, though he did mention during a recent trip to a mosque in Africa that "Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters"; a previous quote attributed to him in which he said all Christians, Muslims, and Jews share the same god originated from a fake website.
And it's that premise that has the evangelical Christian college irritated. "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," a Wheaton College statement reads. Although the college didn't come down on the gesture itself, it says that the political science professor should have let administrators her plans, noting "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." Hawkins says those from her own belief system are the ones most upset about her stand: She posts on Facebook that she's "received pushback almost exclusively from other Christians." "I do care about my Christian brothers and sisters and I didn't set out to offend them," she tells the Tribune, "[but] my position has been held for centuries." (She elaborates on that position on Twitter and Facebook.)