Hamline University fires art history professor for truly absurd reason

‘Respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom,’ the university says.

In the latest edition of campus insanity, Hamline University just fired an art history professor for… teaching art history. They’re standing by the decision despite widespread scrutiny, too.

Here’s what went down, as originally reported by Reason.

An adjunct art history professor created a medieval painting of the prophet Muhammad as part of their course materials. For context, many traditionalist Muslims believe that it is wrong to depict the image of Muhammad. The professor gave all students a warning and any objecting students did not have to be there when the image was shown. Nonetheless, a student complained that showing this image was “islamophobic” and administrators somehow agreed. The professor was fired, with the university saying that “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom.”

This. Is. Insane.

It’s not “bigoted” to look at a historically significant painting, even one that offends some people. And it’s not “islamophobic” for other students to not abide by the dictates of a religion they do not hold. That’s like saying it’s antisemitic for me to eat bacon because orthodox Jewish people cannot eat pork under their faith. It’s obviously absurd and not how any of this works. If nobody was allowed to do anything other people’s faiths prohibited, just about everything would be prohibited and no meaningful education or discussion could ever occur.

And, based on what we currently know, Muslim students were shown respect. They were warned and given the opportunity to avoid it. But they don’t have a right to block other students from engaging with art and history simply due to their personal religious beliefs.

You have the right to your religious freedom, absolutely, but you don’t have the right to superimpose it on to other people and silence our freedom of speech. This is especially true in a university context, which should be an open marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately, many of our colleges these days, Hamline evidently included, are woefully failing on that front.

Thankfully, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is taking action to hold Hamline accountable. While it is a private college and thus not bound by the First Amendment, it is an accredited university and therefore required to uphold academic freedom. FIRE has fired a complaint with its accreditor and called out Hamline for failing to live up to both its obligations and stated values.

Here’s hoping Hamline is made to pay for this grotesque, illiberal attack on academic freedom.

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Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo
Brad Polumbo is a libertarian-conservative journalist and co-founder of Based Politics. His work has been cited by top lawmakers such as Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Pat Toomey, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, Congressman Thomas Massie, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, as well as by prominent media personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Sean Hannity, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin. Brad has also testified before the US Senate, appeared on Fox News and Fox Business, and written for publications such as USA Today, National Review, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast. He hosts the Breaking Boundaries podcast and has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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