Female Professor Sues Seminary Over Dismissal

A former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor filed suit against the institution for dismissing her because she is a woman.

Sheri Klouda, who taught Hebrew since 2002 at the seminary, was forced out last year allegedly because she was a woman teaching men. She filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing the seminary and its president, Paige Patterson, of fraud, breach of contract and defamation.

Klouda, now teaching at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., was refused tenure at Southwestern and was told her contract would not be renewed because of her gender. Her contract was terminated in December 2006.

The dismissal has spawned unexpected public outcry and widespread media coverage, even to the surprise of Klouda.

Southwestern trustee chairman Van McClain had explained that the seminary is taking the "traditional" position that women should not teach men in theology or biblical languages and thus only men should instruct future pastors. The seminary follows the Southern Baptist statement of faith which limits the pastorate to men. Consequently, Patterson said that instruction of future pastors is limited to men.

Moreover, McClain argued that Klouda "did not have tenure" and was told she would not be awarded tenure, according to a blog post.

Klouda was hired in 2002 for tenure track position along with seven other professors, one other being a woman, according to the lawsuit. Klouda, however, was the only woman to teach at the School of Theology.

The suit contended that Patterson, who became president in 2003, assured Klouda that her position was secure. But in 2004, she was informed that she would not get tenure because she was "a mistake that the trustees needed to fix," the lawsuit states, according to The Associated Press. McClain had denied that gender discrimination played a role in Klouda's dismissal.

Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, filed a letter of complaint to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Association of Theological Schools, calling for an investigation of "a serious breach" of accreditation guidelines.

Seminary spokesman John Zellers told AP that school officials do not comment on pending litigation. The suit if Klouda v. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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