GREENVILLE, N.C. — A jury has found that the University of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNCW) discriminated against a professor by denying him a promotion due to his outspoken Christian views.
“We are grateful that the jury today reaffirmed the fundamental principle that universities are a marketplace of ideas, not a place where professors face retaliation for having a different view than university officials,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham, who represented UNC professor Mike Adams at the trial this week. “As the jury decided, disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for denying him a promotion.”
As previously reported, 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 2006, 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. Testimony and legal argument was heard Monday through Wednesday of this week.
On Thursday, the jury agreed with attorneys for Adams, concluding that he was unjustly denied a promotion because of the views he expressed in print and broadcast media, which were protected by the First Amendment.
“They concluded that the University of North Carolina Wilmington retaliated against Dr Adams by denying him a promotion in 2006 and they retaliated against him because they did not like the views he expressed in his books and columns and speeches,” Barham explained to reporters following the verdict. “Basically, they didn’t like what he said in his own time.”
“I’m just really thrilled that the jury ruled in our favor,” Adams told Star News. “I’m pleased and honored.”
University officials state that they will likely appeal the decision.
“UNCW strongly believes that its faculty properly applied their academic judgment in determining that Dr. Adams’ application did not merit promotion to full professor in 2006 and firmly denies that Dr. Adams’ political or religious viewpoints played any role whatsoever in the decision,” it wrote in a statement. “The university was, is, and will continue to be committed to the proposition that faculty are to be evaluated on their merit, regardless of their respective political or religious views or commentary.”