A scientist claims he was fired from his job as a lab tech at Cal State Northridge because he published an academic paper which seemingly supported his creationist views.
Attorneys with the Pacific Justice Institute filed a lawsuit against the university on behalf of Mark Armitage, who worked for the CSUN Department of Biology as an electron microscopy technician from 2010 until 2013.
In the summer of 2012, Armitage was invited to dig for dinosaur bones at the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. Hidden in the dirt, he found what was reported to be the largest triceratops horn ever discovered at the site.
He later examined the horn under a high-powered microscope at CSUN and found soft tissue. The consensus within the scientific community is that the triceratops became extinct 65 million years ago, but Armitage argues the horn must be much younger or the tissue would have decayed.
Armitage supports young Earth creationism and does not believe in evolution. He believes triceratops lived no more than 4,000 years ago.
Michael Peffer, a staff attorney with the institute’s southern California office, said Armitage does not wear his religion on his sleeve but does not hide it either. According to the lawsuit, Armitage informed the panel of CSUN personnel interviewing him for the job that he had published materials supporting creationism.
“He told them right from the start he published in the sphere of creationist scientific research, and that was acceptable to most of the people who were his bosses when he started. Unfortunately, a new guy came in who was his boss, and he was not quite as accepting,” Peffer said.
According to the lawsuit, Armitage would engage in Socratic dialogue with students about the age of the horn while demonstrating the use of the microscopes. Once his new supervisor, Dr. Ernest Kwok, heard about the discovery from a student, he allegedly went to Armitage’s lab and shouted, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department.”
Armitage said he reported the incident to the department chair and was told there was no problem and he should forget about the confrontation.
In February 12, 2013, the peer-reviewed Acta Histochemica Journal published Armitage’s findings online. According to the lawsuit, Kwok convened a secret meeting with other staff members the same day of the publication, and the decision was made to terminate his employment.
A week later, the manager of technical services for the department reportedly told Armitage a “witch hunt” was being mounted against him and he should resign. On Feb. 27, 2013, he was officially terminated.
Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus said it is egregious to fire a university employee for presenting scientific evidence in a professional manner.
“It’s a huge violation of true science academia to disqualify scientific evidence just because it supports a religious belief,” Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus said. “This university has displayed outrageous and overt prejudice against academicians with a religious perspective, and it is an affront to true science and academics.”
According to the lawsuit, university officials claimed Armitage’s appointment at the university was temporary even though he had been there for 38 months. He was also reportedly told there was a lack of funding for his position and the lab would be closed. However, he said the lab remained open and another person was hired to replace him.
Armitage claims he was never told the position was temporary, and after being hired, he was called a “permanent part-time employee” and received the university’s full benefits package, according to the lawsuit.
Carmen Ramos Chandler, a spokesperson for the university, said she could not comment on the lawsuit because they have not been served yet. However, she reviewed Armitage’s employment records and confirmed he was listed as a “temporary hire.” She said he worked half-time as an instructional support technician, and they have no record of him teaching a class.
The lawsuit, which claims wrongful termination and religious discrimination, seeks the reinstatement of Armitage’s employment and monetary damages.