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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

Art Prof Sues U.S. School Over Ouster For Showing Muhammad's Image

Attorneys for an adjunct art professor said she is suing the Minnesota university that axed her after a Muslim student objected to depictions of Prophet Muhammad in a global art course, and the school admitted to a “misstep” on the matter, Margaret Stafford reported for the Associated Press (AP).

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In her lawsuit, Erika López Prater alleges that Hamline University — a private school in St. Paul that is linked to the very liberal United Methodist Church (UMC) — subjected her to religious discrimination and defamation and damaged her professional and personal reputation.

The university said it plans to hold public conversations about academic freedom.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national civil rights organization, disputed the belief that López Prater’s behavior was Islamophobic. It said professors who analyze images of the Prophet Muhammad for academic purposes are not the same as “Islamophobes who show such images to cause offense.”

“Among other things, Hamline, through its administration, has referred to Dr. López Prater’s actions as ‘undeniably Islamophobic,’″ her attorneys said in a statement.

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“Comments like these, which have now been published in news stories around the globe, will follow Dr. López Prater throughout her career, potentially resulting in her inability to obtain a tenure track position at any institution of higher education.”

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

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Hamline University President Fayneese Miller and Ellen Watters, the Board of Trustees chairwoman, released a joint statement Tuesday saying recent “communications, articles and opinion pieces” have led the school to “review and re-examine our actions.”

She added: “Like all organizations, sometimes we misstep,” the statement said.

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“In the interest of hearing from and supporting our Muslim students, language was used that does not reflect our sentiments on academic freedom. Based on all that we have learned, we have determined that our usage of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was therefore flawed.”

The statement opens the door to a possible amicable settlement.

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