Art professor sues after firing over showing Prophet Muhammad images


In her lawsuit, Erica Lopez Prater alleged that Hamline University — a small. Private school in St. Paul. Subjected her to religious discrimination and defamation and damaged her professional. And personal reputation.


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Attorneys for an art professor said Tuesday. That he is suing the University of Minnesota after he was fired. After a Muslim student objected to a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a global art course. Admitting the university made a “misstep” and plans to hold a public conversation. About academic freedom.

In her lawsuit, Erica Lopez Prater alleged that Hamline University — a small. Private school in St. Paul — subjected her to religious discrimination. And defamation and damaged her professional and personal reputation.

“Among other things, Hamline, through its administration. characterized Dr. Lopez Prater’s actions as ‘undoubtedly Islamophobic.” his attorneys said in a statement. “Comments like these, which have now appeared in news stories around the world. Will follow Dr. Lopez Prater throughout his career. Possibly resulting in his inability to get a tenure-track position. At any institution of higher education.”

In Minnesota, a lawsuit can be commenced by serving a summons and a complaint on the party being sued. Attorneys for Lopez Prater said the lawsuit was served. On Hamline University on Tuesday and will be filed in court soon.

Hamline University President Phineas Miller and Ellen Waters. Chair of the board of trustees, released a joint statement. Tuesday saying recent “communications. Articles and opinion pieces” have led the school to “review and reexamine our actions.” “Like all organizations, we sometimes make mistakes,” the statement said. “In the interest of hearing from and advocating for our Muslim students. Language was used that did not reflect our feelings about academic freedom. Based on what we have learned. We have determined that the use of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was thus flawed.”

The statement did not address the lawsuit. But said the university strongly supports academic freedom. Which should coexist with student advocacy. The university plans to hold two public conversations next month. One on academic freedom. And student care and another on academic freedom and religion.

Last October, Lopez Prater showed a 14th-century painting. Depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on Islamic art. For many Muslims, visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Violate their faith, as López Prater knew.

According to the lawsuit, Lopez Prater’s course syllabus included. A note that students would see images of religious figures. Including the Prophet Muhammad. The syllabus also included proposals to work with students. Who were uncomfortable viewing those images.

He warned the class before showing the picture of the Prophet Muhammad. He said in media interviews last week that his goal was to teach students. About the “rich diversity” of attitudes toward such images. Lopez Prater said he and the department chairman. Were discussing having him teach a new course. But was told “his services are no longer needed” after the student complained.

Hamline’s president before said the professor’s. Contract was not renewed after the fall semester.

The lawsuit alleges that instead of recognizing images of. Lopez Prater at Hamline with proper academic purposes. The university chose to impose religious views on students. That all other students and employees should not see images of the prophet.

On Friday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A national civil rights organization for Muslims. Disputed the belief that Lopez Prater’s behavior was Islamophobic. The group said that professors who analyze images of the Prophet Muhammad for academic. Purposes are not the same as “Islamophobes who show such images to cause offence”.

At a news conference last week held by supporters of Lopez Prater’s firing. The student who filed the complaint said she had never seen. A depiction of the Prophet Muhammad until the October class.

“It breaks my heart that I have to stand here and tell people. That something is Islamophobic and something actually hurts all us. Not just me,” said Aram Wedatalla, president of Hamline’s Muslim Student Association.

The university said on Tuesday that it had learned. A lot about the complexities of displaying images of the Prophet Muhammad. And understood the different views. On the issue that exist within the Muslim community.

“Higher education is about learning and growing. We must continue to grow as we learn and create new knowledge. To share with all our Hamline community,” the statement said.

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