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The Gaskell affair
hourglass nebula, eye

Astronomer Sues the University of Kentucky, Claiming His Faith Cost Him a Job

Dr. Gaskell [....] said he accepted standard evolutionary science. In e-mail responses to questions, he said he was not a creationist and did not deny the theory of evolution.
“Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with,” Ms. Shafer [a University of Kentucky staff member] wrote, “but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site.”

"Similar content" is a reference to Modern Astronomy, the Bible, and Creation.

Referring to Ms. Shafer’s concern that Dr. Gaskell was “potentially evangelical,” Francis J. Manion, Dr. Gaskell’s lawyer, said: “I couldn’t have made up a better quote. ‘We like this guy, but he is potentially Jewish’? ‘Potentially Muslim’?”

The e-Astronomer wrote that Gaskell

...was someone I know reasonably well on a professional level .... Martin graduated from the Edinburgh astrophysics degree the year before me – 1975 – and is a well known AGN researcher.

And concluded:

I do actually feel, as Christopher Hitchens said, that religion poisons everything : not by evil intent, but simply by distorting the process of thinking. Somehow, atheists, and even non-theists, in the US have found themselves trapped into a religious war, where every episode is a symbol of a larger struggle. People are so frightened that the US will be dragged into a theocracy by the religious right that they are panicked into unreasonable behaviour.

Its important to get this right in a calm and factual manner. If Gaskell was rejected because of a reasonable lack of confidence in whether he would do the job well, he will lose the case. The end. Shut up. If he was rejected explicitly because of his religious faith, he has a strong case, and atheists should support him. If a precedent is set that individuals can be rejected employment because they are christians, then they can also be rejected employment because they are atheists.


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