Bryan College, professors settle lawsuit

Bryan College, professors settle lawsuit

October 8th, 2014 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Bryan College president Stephen Livesay

Bryan College president Stephen Livesay

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

The lawsuit between Bryan College and two of the school's former professors was settled before it evolved into a modern-day Scopes Trial.

The 1925 trial was argued in the same red brick courthouse in Dayton, Tenn., and also debated the origins of man's creation, but the 2014 legal debate that Bryan College found itself fighting instead was resolved Monday.

In a statement, Bryan College President Stephen Livesay said the college has settled with Dr. Steve DeGeorge and Dr. Steve Barnett, professors who sued the college in May. The statement said the terms of the settlement are confidential and the professors had no comment.

The professors' lawsuit followed a tumultuous year that included the faculty's 30-2 vote of no confidence in Livesay.

DeGeorge and Barnett sued the conservative nondenominational Christian school in response to the college's decision in February to change its more-than-80-year-old statement of belief. The change excluded opinions held by some Christian professors -- who believe God may have used evolution as part of creation -- by stating that Adam and Eve "are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms."

The professors said that it was unlawful for Bryan to change its charter, which states that the statement of belief cannot be altered "as long as it shall endure."

When both professors signed their new contracts this spring, they added amendments saying they agreed with the college's original statement of belief, but not the changes that were made.

Livesay rejected their contracts, saying they were signed "under protest."

The professors agreed and decided to take their case to the courthouse, where Hamilton County Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton warned both sides this trial would not be like the Scopes Trial, which was as much spectacle as substance.

After the settlement, Livesay said, "I am very thankful for the many years of service at Bryan by both of these men, and I pray that God would bless them."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.


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