State Court of Appeals upholds dismissal of lawsuits against Lexington Theological Seminary

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJuly 27, 2012 

The state Court of Appeals on Friday upheld the Fayette Circuit Court's decision to dismiss lawsuits by two tenured professors who lost their jobs at Lexington Theological Seminary.

The professors, Laurence H. Kant and Jimmy Kirby, filed lawsuits in 2009 when they were dismissed after the seminary announced that it had a financial emergency.

The Fayette Circuit Court determined that the First Amendment prohibited the judiciary from deciding ecclesiastical matters and that the court could not interfere in the selection of ministers. The professors had argued that they were not ministers.

Kant had maintained that "he was not a minister and, as a Jew, could not have been considered a minister at a Christian seminary," according to the ruling.

Although Kirby taught at the seminary, he was never ordained as a minister. Instead, Kirby is a member of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the ruling said.

Kant and Kirby alleged that the seminary had breached their contractual right to tenured employment.

Kirby also alleged race discrimination.

Kant maintained that the seminary faculty handbook, which specifies the circumstances under which a tenured professor's employment may be terminated, does not say that a tenured professor may be terminated due to a financial emergency.

Attorneys for the professors and the seminary did not immediately return telephone calls on Friday.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 230-5209. Twitter: @vhspears

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