The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has garnered the support of thousands of educators and concerned citizens, in the wake of Hamline University's decision to fire an art professor who reportedly showed an image of Islam's prophet Muhammad in class.
Through personal letters and social media posts, more than 1,000 people have joined in the campaign to convince Hamline University, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, to reverse its decision of terminating the art professor, according to Breitbart News.
In addition, FIRE has condemned Hamline for hiding any social media posts criticizing the school's termination move.
In a statement, FIRE also requested the university "immediately reinstate the instructor and reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom" and formally respond to its call to action by Jan. 9 — a date that has since expired.
Consequently, on Jan. 23, the organization will reportedly exhibit a mobile billboard throughout the university's campus, speaking out against the notion of artistic censorship and limited freedom of expression.
In its response to claims of "Islamophobia" and limiting First Amendment rights, Hamline said in a statement that its "respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom."
FIRE countered by arguing that Hamline violated the instructor's academic freedom, and also helped foster a "chilling effect" among the other faculty, who may now choose to "avoid discussion of difficult subjects," rather than risk nonrenewal if someone complains.
"Hamline has both violated the academic freedom of this instructor by nonrenewing them for their pedagogically relevant teaching and created an impermissible chilling effect among all faculty, who may choose to censor their teaching rather than face nonrenewal," read the FIRE statement.
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