University of Kentucky Settles With Evolution-Denying Astronomer

An astronomer who sued University of Kentucky because he believed he was passed over for a job in 2007 because of his religious beliefs has reached a settlement with the school.

UK has agreed to pay Martin Gaskell $125,000. Gaskell maintains that he was a leading candidate for the position of founding director for the university’s new observatory, until the review committee learned of his religious views which question evolution. Gaskell had been going around the country, giving lectures to college religious groups, telling them that there were “major flaws” in evolutionary theory.

He had filed suit in 2009, saying that in rejecting him for the position of the university had violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Christian right American Center for Law and Justice, which represented Gaskell, has a news release on the settlement here.

The entire settlement, in which the university admits no wrongdoing, is here. In a statement released by UK counsel, the agreement was in order to avoid a lengthy trial.

A trial had been scheduled for February after U.S. Senior District Judge Karl S. Forester of the Eastern District of Kentucky rejected the university’s request for summary judgment, ruling that Gaskell has a right for his allegations to be heard in court. As I wrote last month about the case, I thought it delved into a rather knotty and interesting constitutional issue. There had been some debate over exactly what Gaskell’s religious beliefs entailed, but his website seems to indicate that he is an old earth creationist and that he accepts that the universe is 14 billion years old. Certainly, an astronomer should not be passed over for a position solely because of his religious beliefs. But then again, if those religious beliefs make it impossible for him to do his job—such as if he believed that the entire solar system was only 6,000 years old—then he’s woefully unqualified.