By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 21, 2014
GREENVILLE, NC — Professor Mike Adams has a struck a blow for First Amendment rights with his successful case against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The jury ruled Thursday in U.S. District Court that the university, when it denied him a promotion in 2006, had discriminated against Adams because of opinions he had expressed in columns written apart from his job.
“We hope Dr. Adams’ case sends a powerful message that discrimination against conservative and Christian professors is unlawful and that there are ways for these professors to stand up for their own freedom and the freedoms of their colleagues,” said Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Travis Barham.
He said that, unfortunately, Adams’ situation is not unique.
“I think Dr. Adams is sadly a typical example of what can happen to professors who dare to express viewpoints contrary to those of the administration,” Barham said.
Hired as an assistant professor in 1993, when he was an atheist, and promoted to associate professor five years later, Adams became a Christian in 2000, after which the ADF has said he became the target of “intrusive investigations, baseless accusations, and the denial of promotion to full professor even though his scholarly output surpassed that of almost all of his colleagues.”
“Disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for denying him a promotion.” Barham argued. He said universities should be a marketplace of ideas, “not a place where professors face retaliation for having a different view than university officials.”
Adams praised the Lord for his victory, which came after several years of legal wrangling. A federal district court had ruled against the professor in 2010 saying that his columns and books were not protected under the First Amendment, but a federal appeals court had overturned that verdict. And on Thursday, the jury confirmed that Adams was a victim of discrimination.
Barham said much of the testimony dealt with conversations among university officials prior to a meeting about Adams’ promotion, during the meeting and immediately afterward. He said feedback regarding Adams that was given to a department chair as part of the evaluation process was heavily edited before being used to sway those in authority against the professor and that a cover-up of some of the illegal actions followed. What the jury realized, he said, is that if the committee had performed a legitimate evaluation of Dr. Adams, rather than judging him on the basis of his columns, he would have received a promotion.
“This verdict is a huge step forward, and we’re incredibly grateful that the jury has seen the truth about Dr. Adams,” said Barham, who explained that the full result of the case — whether the professor will be immediately reconsidered for promotion, etc., — will play out over the next weeks or months via further proceedings.
“The most significant thing about this case is that we have demonstrated conclusively that the University of North Carolina at Wilmington retaliated against a conservative professor because they disagreed with his opinions, which are free speech. And that’s a violation of the First Amendment,” Barham added.
Adams had said his personal three-fold plan of attack would be the same whether his case ended in victory or defeat — he will push for a Center for Student Rights, religious liberty legislation and a line-item veto for higher education funding.
“The religious liberty bill that Professor Adams has espoused is one of nearly a half dozen similar bills supported by the Christian Action League during the last legislative session,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The common sense bill would prevent colleges from demanding — in the name of non-discrimination — that organizations allow students opposed to their cause or values to take leadership positions within them. It would basically clarify that student organizations have the right to determine their own internal affairs, selecting leaders and members and defining their own doctrines. Universities are supposed to be the market place of concepts and ideas, not centers for liberal fascism and forced anti-Christian indoctrinations.”
In a column this week, Adams said the matter needs to be addressed again until it becomes “binding law applicable to all public colleges and universities in the Tar Heel State.”
He further reiterated the need for a Center for Student Rights. Adams said schools already have African American Centers and LGBT Centers, but nothing to help students who are discriminated against because of their beliefs or political associations. He said student affairs divisions have become “increasingly hostile” toward student rights and need oversight.
Finally, in his quest for a line-item veto for higher education, Adams said spending should be divided into “academic” and “non-academic” categories so that lawmakers can defund gay activism efforts on campuses without taking money from the physics department.