University pays settlement to Christian professor in discrimination case
A university paid recently a settlement to a Christian professor of astronomy who sued it over alleged hiring discrimination because of his faith, in a case that may carry national implications regarding religious intolerance.
The University of Kentucky paid a settlement of $125,000 to astronomy professor Martin Gaskell, who filed his lawsuit when he was turned down for the job of Observatory Director of the UK in 2007 after writings in his personal website regarding modern astronomy and Christianity became an issue, PR Newswire said.
Frank Manion, senior trial counsel for ACLJ said, “In bringing this case and successfully resolving it we believe we have shed some light on a problem that is by no means limited to the University of Kentucky,” The Baptist Press reported.
Manion told PR Newswire, “It is simply untenable to think that an avowed Christian, evangelical or otherwise, or any other scientist of religious faith, is somehow incapable or less capable of performing his or her job in science education, research or outreach.”
Manion cited Copernicus, Newton, Pasteur, and currently, Francis Collins who heads the National Institutes for Health, who are all Christian scientists, PR Newswire reported.
Manion said that Gaskell, who is currently a research fellow at the University of Texas in Austin, received a settlement that roughly equals compensation he would have had for up to two years, The Courier-Journal reported.
No summary judgment
U.S. District Judge Karl Forester rejected the UK’s motion for summary judgment, pointing out that the search committee described Gaskell as “superbly qualified,” and “breathtakingly above the other applicants,” The Baptist Press reported.
The court also noted numerous statements in emails during the search process and other deposition statements that “if true, are direct evidence of religious discrimination,” PR Newswire said.
The statements include one by the head of the search committee who wrote to the Chair of the Physics & Astronomy Department that “no objective observer could possibly believe that we excluded Martin [Gaskell] on any basis other than religious,” PR Newswire said.
There were also statements by the Department Chair, a member of the search committee and another member of the committee admitting that Gaskell’s religious beliefs were part of the decision not to hire him, PR Newswire reported.
Finally, PR Newswire cited a correspondence from a search committee head who wrote, “Other reasons will be given for the choice…but the real reason we will not offer him the job is because of his religious beliefs in matters that are unrelated to astronomy or to any of the other duties specified for this position.”
Precludes lengthy trial
A joint motion was filed for the dismissal of the case last Tuesday by Gaskell and UK. Barbara Jones, UK counsel said, “The university is pleased that a quick settlement has been reached in this case. This successful resolution precludes what would have been a lengthy trial that, ultimately, would not have served anyone’s best interest.”
Jones also said the UK “believes its hiring processes were and are fundamentally sound and were followed in this case. The advisory committee for the position, members of the physics department along with our academic administration and the university’s equal opportunity office all appropriately worked through this hiring process in a manner completely consistent with other positions.”