GREENVILLE, N.C. — A civil trial began this week for a University of North Carolina professor who was allegedly denied a promotion because of disagreement with his outspoken Christian views.
Mike Adams works as a professor of criminology in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Adams, a former atheist, was hired in 1993, and became an associate professor in 1998.
In 2000, Adams became a born-again Christian, and his worldview began to change. He became a columnist for TownHall.com and also appeared on radio and television broadcasts, where he spoke about a broad spectrum of issues, from religion to morality to freedom of speech.
However, according to reports, Adams’ conversion to Christianity and his outspokenness on current events soon resulted in “tension” on campus as some disagreed with his views and manner of presentation. In 2004, when he was up for consideration of a promotion to full professor status, Adams was denied.
According to reports, “Dr. Diane Levy, known as an outspoken feminist with leftist political leanings, raised concerns about Adams’ ‘political activity’ and reprimanded him for his weekly nationally syndicated column.”
Dr. Kimberly J. Cook, an atheist, soon also became the chair of the department in which Adams served, and likewise expressed opposition to Adams. Reports state that she “described to a recruitment committee her ideal candidate for a teaching position as ‘a lesbian with spiked hair and a dog collar.’” Cook and others are alleged to be directly involved in the denial of Adams promotion.
Therefore, in 2007, Adams filed suit, contending that university officials discriminated against him because of his Christian beliefs.
In 2010, the District Court ruled against Adams, who then appealed his case to the 4th Circuit. In April of the following year, the court ruled that Adams provided sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.
“No individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment,” the three-judge panel wrote. “Adams’ columns addressed topics such as academic freedom, civil rights, campus culture, sex, feminism, abortion, homosexuality, religion, and morality. Such topics plainly touched on issues of public, rather than private, concern.”
The court then scheduled the trial to begin on Monday. Adams was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, not a place where professors face retaliation for having a different view than university officials,” said ADF Staff Counsel Travis Barham, who was present at the trial yesterday and today. “Disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for denying him a promotion.”
“It is indefensible for a university to refuse promotion to a gifted and accomplished professor simply because they disagree with his religious and political views,” stated Senior Legal Counsel French, who is also representing French in court. “In an institution of higher learning, professors should be promoted based on the quality of their work, not discriminated against on the basis of their beliefs. Officials at UNCW should stand for justice and fairness. Instead, they have violated Dr. Adams’ constitutional rights.”
Adams’ trial is expected to continue through Wednesday.