Victory for Academic Freedom as University of Kentucky Pays $125,000 Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit

Jan 19, 2011, 06:00 ET from Discovery Institute

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Kentucky (UK) has settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by astronomer Martin Gaskell.  The lawsuit alleged Gaskell was denied a job to direct UK's MacAdam Student Observatory due to his religious beliefs and perceived skepticism of Darwinian evolution. The university agreed to pay a settlement of $125,000 in exchange for Gaskell's dropping his lawsuit, which had been scheduled to go to trial next month.

UK faculty rejected Gaskell largely because of online lecture notes where he states "there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory" which "are bigger than is usually made out in introductory geology/biology courses."  Despite admitting he had superior qualifications, faculty cited their disagreement with Gaskell's "beliefs on biology and religion" and "scientific statements about evolution." Gaskell now teaches at the University of Texas.

"Academic and research institutions that discriminate against critics of Darwinian theory have been put on notice," said John West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture. "You cannot just squelch free speech and free thought in this way at a public institution without having to face the prospect of paying for it later on. It was a costly error that the UK's astronomy department made."

The case echoes other ongoing lawsuits in which Darwin doubters claim to have suffered illegal discrimination because of their beliefs. The California Science Center in Los Angeles currently faces a legal battle over a complaint that it canceled a contract to screen a film in its public facility because the film aired beliefs critical of Darwinian evolution. Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), similarly, will have to defend itself against a suit alleging that supervisors demoted a top computer specialist on the Cassini mission to Saturn because he shared DVDs promoting intelligent design with colleagues at JPL.

While UK denies any wrongdoing, Discovery Institute attorney Casey Luskin said the university made a calculated decision to avoid litigating the case.

"The university's attorneys were shrewd to realize even a hundred thousand dollars plus is a bargain compared to the cost in bad publicity of a jury trial exposing UK's intolerance towards dissenting scientific views," explained Luskin.  "The faculty emails in particular, with Darwinian biologists stewing over Gaskell's perceived scientific views on evolution, paint an embarrassing picture of academic freedom at the university."

SOURCE Discovery Institute