Univ. of Kentucky Settles Lawsuit from Astronomer

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Martin Gaskell, a Christian astronomy professor who sued the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination, reached a settlement with the school Tuesday.

The university will pay Gaskell $125,000 in exchange for dropping a federal religious discrimination suit he filed in Lexington in 2009. A trial was set for next month. The school admitted no wrongdoing.

Gaskell sought the post of observatory director at the university's MacAdam Student Observatory. He claimed he was passed over for the job because his religion and statements were perceived to be critical of evolution -- a position that the head of the search committee said he was "breathtakingly" qualified to fill.

However, others said he was 'something close to a creationist' and "potentially evangelical."

"We never thought from the start that everybody at UK was some sort of anti-religious bigot," said Frank Manion, Gaskell's attorney. "However, what I do think this case disclosed is a kind of endemic, almost knee-jerk reaction in academia towards people, especially scientists, of a strong religious faith."

A judge cited statements in e-mails by those involved, including one that read: "No objective observer could possibly believe that we excluded Martin on any basis other than religious."

Gaskell has said he is not "creationist," or someone who believes the Bible's origin story puts the age of the universe at a few thousand years. He also said his views on evolution are in line with biological science.

The American Center for Law and Justice represented Gaskell in the lawsuit.

Gaskell is currently working at the University of Texas as a research fellow in the school's astronomy department.

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