Former Hamline professor sues for religious discrimination, defamation

An exterior look at Hamline university buildings04
Former Hamline instructor Erika López Prater’s attorney Nicholas May says the scholar now faces difficulty reaching her goal of becoming a tenured college professor.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The former instructor at the center of the controversy over religion and academic freedom at Hamline has sued the university for religious discrimination and defamation.

After the adjunct professor, Erika López Prater, showed the artwork, a Muslim student complained and the university sent a campus-wide email labeling her actions Islamophobic. Hamline chose to not renew López Prater’s teaching contract.

Since then, López Prater’s attorney Nicholas May says the scholar has been associated with that word in the international news cycle and it has hurt her career goal of one day becoming a tenured college professor.

“The damage to her reputation by what they've done and said will never be fixed, so we are seeking damages for that harm to her reputation as well as to the emotional distress,” May said.

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Hamline University leaders released a statement after news of the lawsuit became public, saying based on many scholars and religious leaders weighing in on the matter, they determined their usage of the term Islamophobic was “flawed.”

Islamic scholars have weighed in and many have taken López Prater’s side, May said.

“The fact that so many people have come to her defense demonstrates, it really demonstrates the significance of the error that Hamline made in their handling of this matter," he said.

The university did not acknowledge any harm to López Prater and said over the coming months, the university will host two major conversations.

One will focus on academic freedom and student care. The other will focus on academic freedom and religion.

The lawsuit has not been filed as of Tuesday, but the university has been served with the lawsuit, May said.