Regent University, the graduate institution founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, has won the first of four employment-contract lawsuits filed against it by faculty or former faculty members concerning the school's controversial tenure policy.

On August 29, in Tuomala v. Regent University, Circuit Judge Edward W. Hanson, Jr., ruled that Regent's interpretation of a system of three-year "rolling" employment contracts in 1993 did not violate those contracts.

The three professors—Jeffrey Tuomala, Clifford Kelly, and Elaine Waller—will be unemployed at the end of the academic year next May when their three-year contracts expire. Their unemployment results from their refusal to sign new employment contracts implemented at Regent in 1994. They had made a legal claim to lifetime tenure under Regent's old system, changed in 1994.

Hanson said the professors' three-year rolling contracts ensured they could not be "put out in the cold" for three years. "This contract, however, was not tenure," he maintained. "Tenure was anathema to Regent University from its inception and until 1993."

Kelly told CHRISTIANITY TODAY the plaintiffs may appeal. "I was stunned by the decision," Kelly says.

Pivotal to the case was a January 12, 1989, letter to the American Bar Association (ABA) from then Regent president Bob Slosser, insisting that the university did offer tenure, as required by the ABA for the accreditation of any law school.

The letter explained that tenure at Regent was achieved through three-year rolling contracts, which were automatically renewed, except in the cases of breach of contract or termination of a program.

But in court, Regent officials held that the 1989 ABA letter was not valid because it was never approved ...

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