University Walks Back Comments After Firing Professor For Showing A Picture Of Muhammad

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After being sued by the professor for religious discrimination, a Minnesota university has retracted its claim that a professor who showed a painting depicting Muhammad as an Islamic prophet was Islamophobic.

Hamline University refused to renew Dr. Erika Lopez Prater’s contract following a complaint from a student that Prater displayed an unveiled portrait depicting Muhammad during an Islamic art class. Hamline stated that Prater’s actions were Islamophobic in an email sent to campus in response to the complaint. Prater claimed Prater caused her emotional distress and damaged her professional reputation.

According to the lawsuit, Prater’s comments may “potentially result[t] in her inability [to] obtain a tenure-track position at any institution higher education.” Prater seeks damages for violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Minnesota Whistleblower Act. She also claims breach of contract, emotional distress, and other breaches.

Hamline released a statement Tuesday night, obtained by Daily Caller News Foundation. It stated that its “Islamophobic” claim was “flawed.”

The DCNF reported that Prater was defended by several free speech watchdogs. In its email address to the complaint, Hamline administrators claimed that academic freedom should have been regarded as more important than respect for observant Muslim students.

The statement stated that “it was not our intention to suggest academic freedom is less important or valuable than student-care. Both co-exist.” Faculty have the freedom to choose what and how they instruct students. Students are cared for by faculty. Hamline University is a university that takes pride in knowing all our students’ names.

On Jan. 13, the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a joint statement with the DCNF. It stated that there was “no evidence” that the lesson was Islamophobic.

It shared that Hamline University will examine how to balance academic freedom and student care through conversations.

Prater’s lawyer did not respond immediately to Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.