An adjunct professor fired from Hamline University in St. Paul has filed a religious discrimination and defamation lawsuit against the school.
Fabian May & Anderson, PLLP, announced Tuesday that the firm is filing the suit on behalf of Dr. Erika López Prater, who was let go from her position at the university after she displayed an artistic depiction of the Prophet Muhammad during an Oct. 6, 2022 lecture.
Prater's course syllabus included the following disclaimer:
"I aim to affirm students of all religious observances and beliefs in the content of the course. Additionally, this course will introduce students to several religious traditions and the visual cultures they have produced historically. This includes showing and discussing both representational and non-representational depictions of holy figures (for example, the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, and the Buddha). If you have any questions or concerns about either missing class for a religious observance or the visual content that will be presented, please do not hesitate to contact me."
López Prater distributed the syllabus to students and reviewed it with her class. It was also posted online.
On the day the images were shown in class, López Prater told the Times that she warned students right before the painting was shown in case they wanted to leave.
After a student in her class filed a complaint, López Prater was let go from her position. That student, Aram Wedatalla, is also president of the Muslim Student Association at Hamline University.
“I’m 23 years old, I’ve never seen a picture of a prophet. Never in my whole life” Wedatalla said at a recent press conference hosted by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It hurts; it breaks my heart to stand here to tell people and beg people to understand me. To feel what I feel.”
Though on Jan. 13, the national CAIR chapter released its own statement, writing in a series of tweets that the organization had seen "no evidence that a former Hamline University professor acted with bigoted intent or engaged in Islamophobia when she analyzed a medieval painting depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that was drawn hundreds of years after his passing by a Muslim artist."