DAYTON, Tenn. ― Two former professors at a Dayton college named for one of creationism’s most famous defenders are suing to get their jobs back after rejecting the school’s amended statement of belief.
The dispute at Bryan College, named for Scopes Monkey Trial prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, began in February when trustees clarified the school’s statement of belief to exclude the possibility that God may have used evolution as part of creation.
Science professor Stephen Barnett and education professor Steven DeGeorge say in the lawsuit that college trustees don’t have the authority to make the change because the school’s charter says the statement can’t be altered.
Attorney Rosemarie Hill, who represents the college, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that leaders at the institution do have the authority to amend the statement.
“You might disagree with it,” she said. “But the college, through its board of trustees, has the right to make the decisions it did.”
Since the school clarified its statement of belief to say that Adam and Eve were historical people who were not created from previously existing life forms, the conflict has escalated with a majority of professors voting “no confidence” in the school’s president, and students and alumni penning petitions in response to the controversy.
Students held a protest day last month prompted by the loss of at least nine of the college’s 44 full-time professors and statements by Bryan College President Stephen Livesay, who has downplayed the controversy.
Livesay told the newspaper in April that students are happy and “the reality is we are solid.”
The professors declined to comment, but say in the suit that the board’s action contradicts language that says Bryan is “to represent a wide spectrum of religious denominations and the normal divergence that is characteristic of the larger American evangelical community.”
The college originally filed a motion for arbitration, but has since agreed to proceed in the courts, Hill said.
“This is not Scopes Trial 2,” she said. “This is an employer-employee issue with two faculty members. That’s all it is.”
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