So for all those who say academia is too politically correct, take heart - if this is true, academics can be bigots just like anyone else, at least as long as it's a Christian being denied rights.
One member of the hiring board described his qualifications as "breathtakingly above the other applicants" but there are lots of things that go into hiring so that can't be the only factor and if it turns out to be other issues, that is okay. Yet it looks bad, since apparently others worried his being a Christian would conflict with his science.
In that sort of militant atheist climate, even an outstanding scientist like Francis Collins, who directed the Human Genome Project, could not get hired. But is it true that being religious means you can't be in science? Every AAAS survey for the last 70 years says over 40% of scientists are religious so it is unlikely all of their science is invalid.
The AP report says some members of the search committee
openly worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical."In the interests of clarity, and because some of the kookier atheists seek to muddy the waters by lumping all religious people together as anti-science and immature fundamentalists, a distinction has to be made. Creationists, who believe a divine being created the universe, are much different than the anti-science Young Earth Creationists who instead rationalize arbitrarily that the world is 6,000 years old and all science evidence otherwise has been planted as a test of faith.
Calling someone a creationist without the 'young Earth' part is silly - 98% of the world is religious and therefore 'creationist' so it's a meaningless claim. But the 'Young Earth Creationists' are a different breed and are often opposed by both religious and secular education groups because it is a specific sectarian viewpoint they want taught in science classes. The folks at U. of Kentucky seemed to believe hiring any religious person damaged their reputation - replace Christian with Muslim or Jew in this instance and you see how that might be a problem for the overwhelming majority of Americans much less a court of law.
Should religion be a criterion in hiring at schools or any institutions that get taxpayer money? I suppose it depends on the job - an evolutionary biologist who shows up on the job and declares he now won't work on evolutionary biology because of his religion might be a problem but this is a guy who knows how old the stars are, yet the atheists who declare his 'science outreach' work will be tainted by his religion might as well say the same thing about a scientist's gender, race or sexuality - it holds no water, since Gaskell has had a fine career as a scientist.
"Unfortunately too many people get hung up on the idea that you have to be one extreme or the other," said Frank Manion, Gaskell's attorney who works for American Center for Law&Justice, which focuses on religious freedom cases. They say "you can't be a religious believer and somebody who accepts evolution, which is clearly not true. And Gaskell's a perfect example of that."Here's hoping the court finds that there were other legitimate factors that caused them to hire someone else. It isn't ethically or intellectually superior for atheists to discriminate against qualified candidates because of religion. If anything, people who claim 'reason' as their guide should be more immune from such thinking than others.