BOSTON A Christian biologist is suing the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, claiming he was fired for refusing to accept evolution, lawyers involved in the case said on Friday.
Nathaniel Abraham, an Indian national who describes himself as a "Bible-believing Christian," said in the suit filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Boston that he was fired in 2004 because he would not accept evolution as scientific fact.
The latest U.S. academic spat over science and religion was first reported in The Boston Globe newspaper on Friday. Gibbs Law Firm in Florida, which is representing Abraham, said he was seeking $500,000 in compensation.
The zebrafish specialist said his civil rights were violated when he was dismissed shortly after telling his superior he did not accept evolution because he believed the Bible presented a true account of human creation.
Creationists such as Abraham believe God made the world in six days, as the Bible's Book of Genesis says.
Woods Hole, a federally funded nonprofit research center on Cape Cod, said in a statement it firmly believed its actions and those of its employees in the case were "entirely lawful" and that it does not discriminate.
Abraham, who was dismissed eight months after he was hired, said he was willing to do research using evolutionary concepts but that he had been required to accept Darwin's theory of evolution as scientific fact or lose his job.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination dismissed the case this year, saying Abraham's request not to work on evolutionary aspects of research would be difficult for Woods Hole because its work is based on evolutionary theories.
Abraham said this condition was never spelled out in the advertisement for the job and that his dismissal led to severe economic losses, an injured reputation, emotional pain and suffering and mental anguish.
The case underscores tension between scientists, who see creationist views as anti-science, and evangelical Christians who argue that protections of religious freedom enshrined in the U.S. Constitution extend to scientific settings.
Abraham, 35, is now a biology professor at Liberty University, a Baptist school in Virginia founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Christian pastor and televangelist.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)