Fired ITC associate professor files EEOC complaint

A former associate professor at Interdenominational Theological Center has filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging he was fired in part because of his age, sex and religion.

Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, an evangelical Christian, filed an EEOC discrimination complaint on July 5, claiming that officials at the school "harassed me for some time by disagreeing with my conservative religious ideals, intimidating me, slandering my character, giving me poor evaluations and changing student grades from failing to passing with no merit."

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hopkins added that his trouble started after a guest speaker he invited on campus handed out an anti-homosexuality book.

He was fired July 3. "We are arguing breach of contract," said Jamal-Dominique Hopkins' lawyer Joe Hopkins, who is also his father. "They ignored their stated procedures for termination, tenure and grievance."

On Thursday, ITC President Ronald Peters declined to speak with a reporter, but his office provided a copy of a letter to the American Association of University Professors, who made an inquiry on his behalf. Peters wrote that Hopkin's firing had nothing to do with "academic freedoms."

"Dr. Hopkins' assertions must be affirmed, at best, as disappointing remarks of a disgruntled former employee and are a misrepresentation of fact," Peters wrote. The letter states because of the "very real" possibility that the matter will end up in litigation, "we have been advised by legal counsel to refrain from speaking or making statements relative to this matter."

Part of the Atlanta University Center, ITC is a consortium of several denominational seminaries and offers graduate studies in theology. The AJC reported in 2010 that there were 430 students enrolled in the school.

The younger Hopkins, an expert in the Dead Sea Scrolls, was hired in 2008. Hopkins, who did not have tenure, was promoted to associate professor and given a raise in early February.

A couple of weeks later, he held an informal prayer meeting, where the guest speaker gave a student a copy of "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics" by Robert A. J. Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The book argues that the Bible paints same-sex intercourse as a sin.

"Whenever I brought in speakers, they would always give something away," said Hopkins, 42. "This was just one book that was given away. [Homosexuality] wasn't my subject."

He said while he never directly spoke out against homosexuality, he was called in to a meeting with department chair Margaret Aymer, who "interrogated" him about the book, calling it "homophobic literature." Aymer did not respond to several messages for comment.

Last month, Hopkins was called into a meeting with school officials and given a letter of termination.

Hopkins also claims that in retailiation, the school allegedly inflated the grades of nearly a dozen of his students. Hopkins said 10 of his students who had failed or had low marks, received better grades.

Louis Ferguson, a former student of Hopkins, said he didn't know that Hopkins had been fired. But added that he and some other students did not hold him in high regard.

"The grades were changed because of him not teaching properly," Ferguson said. "Maybe because of him not providing a proper education according to the curriculum."

Ferguson would not say if his grades were changed.

Another ITC student, Tonja Watkins was in one of Hopkins' classes. "I enjoyed his class," she said. "I didn't have an issue" with Hopkins or the class.