By Luanne Williams, CAL Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina
WILMINGTON — A conservative Christian professor who dared to stand up for his First Amendment rights may soon have his day in court, much to the dismay of those in charge at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard denied five of seven of the university’s motion-to-dismiss claims in a March 31 ruling and described the discrimination suit — filed by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of Dr. Mike S. Adams — as “ripe for adjudication.”
“It was obviously the correct decision,” said Adams, who is ready to get the show on the road.
He said earlier this week that evidence continues to accumulate to support his claims that the university denied his promotion to full professorship based on his religious and political viewpoints and has made him the target of numerous harassing investigations.
Unfortunately, Adams feels his situation is not unlike that of many other conservative Christians on America’s college campuses.
“What’s unique is someone fighting it; but I think we really have a moral obligation to do that,” Adam’s said, referencing James 4:17 (Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.) “I have been disappointed in those who express their support quietly but won’t speak out.”
An atheist when he began teaching in the criminology department at UNCW in 1993, Adams said he rejected atheism in 1996 and had accepted Christ and adopted a politically conservative viewpoint by 2000. When he began to speak out and write about the lack of ideological diversity at the university, he was met with reprimands, warnings to change his tone and writing style and eventually blatantly dishonest evaluations when considered for promotion.
From his first review, which called him a “very good department and university citizen” with “great potential as a scholar,” Adams received one accolade after the next. In 1995, the department chair called him a “superb teacher, dedicated advisor, and active scholar.” The next year he was honored in Who’s Who Among College Teachers, and in 1998 was named UNCW’s Faculty Member of the Year and promoted to an associate professorship for his “outstanding teaching record,” “impressive record of research” and his record of service. Two years later, he was Faculty Member of the Year again and continued to get favorable reviews even as the harassment began.
One of the best examples of Adams’ rights being violated occurred in the fall of 2001 when the university ordered the examination of the private letters in his e-mail account. A student, who is a faculty member’s daughter, had sent an e-mail following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that discussed political events leading up to them. The e-mail invited recipients to forward it to others interested in “open, unbiased, democratic” discussion. But when Adams responded (via e-mail) with opinions of his own and when others to whom he forwarded her invitation e-mailed her with strong criticism of her views, she accused Adams of intimidation and demanded that UNCW allow her to see his e-mails so she could sue him. Even after the university’s own counsel acknowledged that the student’s claims had no legal merit, administrators decided to open the e-mails anyway.
The First Amendment battle landed him on TV shows like Hannity and Colmes, the O’Reilly Factor and Scarborough Country after which he began writing a nationally syndicated column, often dealing with the ultra-liberal campus climate and the university’s religious intolerance.
In June 2005, despite his stellar record as a faculty member, Adams was told that he would not be promoted to full professor. In June 2006, he received an annual review rating him satisfactory in all areas, but just three months later was formally denied the promotion and told in a letter that he was deficient in the three criteria for professorship (scholarly research productivity, distinguished accomplishment in teaching and significant record of service).
Surrounding by his teaching and service awards and having produced more peer-reviewed articles than many of the school’s liberal professors, Adams called the letter from the department chair a “function of extreme intellectual and personal dishonesty.”
Adams filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in early 2007 and The Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom filed suit against the university, its trustees and four administrators that April.
“Christian professors should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs. No university should refuse promotion to a gifted and accomplished professor simply because it disagrees with his religious and political views,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Steven H. Aden in a press release.
Defendants chose not comment.
“UNCW does not comment on the specifics of pending litigation. The university looks forward to letting the legal process take its course,” said Cynthia Lawson, Assistant to the Chancellor and the chief spokesperson for the university. “As part of that process, it’s also important to note that the court’s order relating to the motion to dismiss is not a decision on the merits of the case.”
Nonetheless, the court order reminded those involved that “Government may not pick and choose the viewpoints it will support.”
Meanwhile, Adams is confident in his case.
“They’re lying and I’m telling the truth,” he said.