An open young earth creationist claims he was fired for religious discrimination after he got legitimate work publishing in a journal. Or, his very anti-science ideas were simply not appropriate for promotion within an academic institution.
In May 2012, Mark Armitage made a discovery that he had dreamed of for years. While digging in Montana, he uncovered one of the largest triceratops horns ever found in the Hell Creek Formation, a legendary stack of fossil-bearing rocks that date to the last days of the dinosaurs.
In February 2013, he published his findings in Acta Histochemica, a journal of cell and tissue research (M. H. Armitage and K. L. Anderson Acta Histochem. 115, 603–608; 2013). Two weeks later, he was fired from his job at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where he managed the biology department’s electron and confocal microscopy suite.
Now he is embroiled in a long-shot legal fight to get his job back. In July, his lawyers filed a wrongful-termination suit claiming that religious intolerance motivated the dismissal: as a young-Earth creationist, Armitage says that finding soft tissue in the fossil supports his belief that such specimens date to the time of the biblical flood, which he puts at about 4,000 years ago.
Armitage admits that he shares his view that dinosaurs are relatively young with his student. He believes that soft-tissue preservation of dinosaur fossils are an obvious clue that they are young. But this conclusion based on a potential misinterpretation and the other poor quality evidence that Creationists use to justify their religious beliefs is a clear indication that Armitage chose the wrong career – science.
His lawyer claims: “Terminating an employee because of their religious views is completely inappropriate and illegal, but doing so in an attempt to silence scientific speech at a public university is even more alarming. This should be a wakeup call and warning to the entire world of academia.”
This is off the mark. Creationist views are NOT science and Creation-based beliefs are clearly religious and do not have a place in public universities or any science curriculum. It may be a nuanced view regarding academic freedom that people just can not grasp. But there is a justifiable conclusion that this world view is not appropriate for science education.
There was no hiding that he held these views and perhaps his employer assumed he would stick to the job at hand. It does not appear that his chances are good to prove he was unlawfully terminated. While the school may not have handled this well, they have a right to terminate employees whose goals are in contrast to their own.