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Settlement in the Gaskell case

A settlement was reached in C. Martin Gaskell v. University of Kentucky, and the parties are moving for a dismissal of the lawsuit. As NCSE previously reported, Martin Gaskell was a leading candidate to be the founding director of a new observatory at the University of Kentucky in 2007. He was not hired, however, in part because of his apparent views on evolution; according to the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 10, 2010), "Gaskell had given lectures to campus religious groups around the country in which he said that while he has no problem reconciling the Bible with the theory of evolution, he believes the theory has major flaws. And he recommended students read ... critics [of evolution] in the intelligent-design movement." Gaskell filed suit against the university in July 2009, alleging that he was not appointed "because of his religious beliefs and his expression of these beliefs" in violation of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991.

According to the Courier-Journal, the university "acknowledged that concerns over Gaskell's views on evolution played a role in the decision to chose another candidate. But it argued that this was a valid scientific concern" — particularly with regard to the prospect that Gaskell's views on evolution would interfere with his ability to serve effectively as director of the observatory — "and that there were other factors, including a poor review from a previous supervisor and UK faculty views that he was a poor listener." In November 2010, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky denied the defendant's and the plaintiff's separate requests for summary judgment, noting, "The parties greatly debate exactly what Gaskell personally believes regarding the theory of evolution and the Bible." The case was scheduled to go to a jury trial on February 8, 2011, as the Associated Press reported (January 18, 2011).

In the settlement, the University of Kentucky agreed to pay Gaskell and his attorneys $125,000; the parties are responsible for their own costs and attorney fees. The settlement provided (PDF, p. 3), "The parties agree that by entering into this Release and Settlement Agreement, the Defendant, University of Kentucky, is not admitting wrongdoing," and the university's counsel Barbara Jones said, in a January 18, 2011, statement, "This successful resolution precludes what would have been a lengthy trial that, ultimately, would not have served anyone's best interests. Importantly, as the settlement makes clear, the University believes its hiring processes were and are fundamentally sound and were followed in this case. ... We are confident that a trial court and the members of the jury would have agreed at the conclusion of all the evidence." Documents from the case, C. Martin Gaskell v. University of Kentucky, are available on NCSE's website.