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Pushback: University president forced out because she fired professor for including Muhammad images in classwork

Mohammad meeting Gabriel
One of the two works of art, “Mohammed receiving revelation
from the angel Gabriel,” that got Prater fired.

Bring a gun to a knife fight: The president of Hamline University in Minnesota, Fayneese Miller, has now announced her early retirement after the school’s faculty demanded her resignation in January when she dismissed a professor for showing images of Muhammad as part of an art class.

That teacher, Erika Lopez Prater, immediately sued.

The lawsuit, which Lopez Prater’s lawyers said on Tuesday will soon be filed in court, reiterated the professor’s previous statement that she had offered warnings before showing the image – including in the syllabus and immediately before showing the image – and had volunteered to work with students uncomfortable with viewing the depictions.

The suit has alleged the university subjected Lopez Prater to religious discrimination and defamation, and damaged her professional and personal reputation. “Among other things, Hamline, through its administration, has referred to Dr Lopez Prater’s actions as ‘undeniably Islamophobic,’” her attorneys said in a statement.

Despite Prater’s gracious effort to prepare her students for the art, one Muslim student, Aram Wedatalla, complained, which prompted Miller to dismiss Prater while Hamline’s Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence David Everett sent out a schoolwide email slandering the teacher. These actions caused the school’s faculty to call for Miller’s resignation by a vote of 72 to 12. Hamline is a small private university, so having 86% of the faculty against her made Miller’s continuance as college president untenable.

Furthermore, hundreds of academics signed a letter condemning Miller’s actions, Pen America did the same, and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) filed an accreditation complaint against the university, demanding the university be held accountable for violating Prater’s academic freedom.

The strong response by the academic community shows what can be done if people of good will stand up and fight. I suspect the percentages of decent people at most universities is not that much different than the numbers who signed the petition supporting Prater, but that small 14% minority is loud, and now frequently and quickly violent, so out of fear, good people do nothing. At Hamline and elsewhere those good people stood up, and thus won.

This story however is not over. Prater’s lawsuit [pdf] remains. It is also not clear if FIRE’s accreditation complaint is still active. Moreover, though Miller has announced her retirement, she will not officially step down until June 2024, more than a year from now.

Furthermore, during the controversy the university’s student newspaper published a letter defending Prater, but two days later took it down without explanation. It seems this act of censorship by the student editors of the newspaper needs addressing, and it is unclear if anyone at the college has done so. As it stands at this moment, it appears Hamline has no objection to censorship by its students.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • The complainant was likely motivated by the Sunni Muslim practice of prohibiting depictions of the Prophet Muhammed, as it is thought to promote idolatry. In the other corner, the Prophet has been depicted in Muslim art for some 800 years.

    This case seems less about damaging religious sensibilities, than the societal promotion of, and acceptance of, lack of self-control. By the student, for not understanding that a personal discomfort is not necessarily a social problem, and for the school administration, all too eager to abase themselves before the ruling theocracy. This is what ‘the personal is political’ looks like in real life.

    It would seem that the plaintiffs in these cases demonstrate a certain lack of moral fortitude. I am exposed to things that I might consider disturbing, or even offensive, but my faith and mettle are stronger than that. Those so disturbed by external stimuli may be lacking on the internal side.

    And just out of curiosity, how does “a small private university” afford an Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence? “Inclusive Excellence” is an attitude, not a bureaucracy.

    I had not seen this painting, but find it fascinating: the expression on the Prophet’s face exquisite. A mixture of aware understanding and rapture and much else. I also like the depiction of the Angel’s wings, as the wing extending up to the hand seems more likely, as such things go. More in the line of bats, than birds. The image is from the Jami’ al-tawarikh (History of the World), Rashid al-Din Hamadani , ~1300. A history of the Turkish and Mongol peoples, as well as a compendium of the known world. Much has been lost, but a copy of the surviving work can be had on Amazon for about $600.

  • Col Beausabre

    We have gone from the celebration and praise for Mapplethorp’s “Piss Christ”, with Christians, especially Catholics, being told to suck it up and being lectured on freedom of speech and artistic expression to people expecting a warning they might be offended by something and getting others fired for exhibiting a picture, “Progress” as defined by the “Progressives”, of course.

  • Col Beausabre: Note the pattern. When we were celebrate Mapplethorp, it was to impose the offensive thoughts of the left, against traditional Judeo-Christian values. Now, we cannot do anything but support the offensive thoughts of the left.

  • pzatchok

    I question the existence of Prophet Muhammad at all.
    The most literate civilization on the planet didn’t write about him until 500 years after his death. But it wrote about Jesus a mere hundred years after his death.

    The Catholic church has writings about Jesus a short few years after his death.

  • GaryMike

    I was raised in a Christian family, married a Muslim, was in business for decades with a Jew.

    I have no personal relationship with any one religion, nor deity.

    My personal relationship is with my Universe, not anyone’s else’s personal point of view.

    I’ve never once thought that the Universe intended that I defend my belief from unbelievers. Violently, or otherwise.

    I’ve always been at peace in this regard.

  • GaryMike

    I left out the context to the original post.

    Offended feelings are subjective. I am not offended by the picture of the Angel and/or Mohammad. I’m not personally invested in either one.

    It’s just a depiction of someone’s opinion I don’t personally share but have no right to deny them.

    i don’t share but

  • Star Bird

    We would really save a lot if we ttaly cut off all funding to these leftists run Universties and Collages and saved it for more improtant things like Better Homes and National Defense

  • Dano S.

    These days, it doesn’t matter how competent you are or how well you do your job because it all comes down to politics. We have incompetent buffons in all manner of high level positions. They keep failing horribly at their real jobs, but as long as they keep spouting nonsense about racist roads or some similar non-issue, they get to keep their positions. Just don’t offend any protected group because your career will be instantly finished. And that’s tough to do since almost anything these days offends some whiny individual somewhere who will then get national headlines with their complaint.


  • Denis Kleinfeld: You should know that using all CAPITAL LETTERS in commenting on the internet is the equivalent of yelling at people rudely. I suspect you did not intend to be rude, but that is how you came off.

    Your point would be more effective spoken softy, in exactly the same words.

  • GaryMike


    I’ve been banned here, no caps were required.

    Respect the place, or go away.

    The owner is capable of suffering idiots.

    Self-deprecation is its own reward.

  • GaryMike:

    I did not know you had been banned. Those of us might form a club. I propose the ‘Thin Ice Club’, as we are ‘one and done’ away from banishment. From history, we know this to be true, and as you point out, a feature, not a bug.

    On Behind the Black
    I was
    On Behind the Black

    Ran into a little Forum jam
    Comment reception
    Not according to plan

    I said something
    Maybe amiss
    Learned my lesson
    And do not diss

  • Blair Ivey: GaryMike had been banned for the repeated use of obscenities. When I ban someone all comments go into moderation, where I can delete them before anyone reads them. He initially stopped commenting, but then after a year or so he asked if he could comment again. I said yes, as long as he behaved himself. His comments still go into moderation, I check them, and have now always approved them.

    I have since offered to take him off moderation but he said it was better I check him first. As he said, more or less, he didn’t trust himself.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

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