GREENVILLE, N.C. — A university in North Carolina has been ordered to pay over $710,000 in attorney’s fees for discriminating against a Christian professor in denying him a promotion because of his beliefs.
As previously reported, 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, 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, which was held last month.
At the conclusion of the trial, 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,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Travis Barham explained to reporters following the verdict. “Basically, they didn’t like what he said in his own time.”
On Tuesday, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ordered the University of North Carolina-Wilmington to pay $710,626.50 in attorney’s fees for expenses incurred surrounding the lawsuit. The court had already ordered the university to promote Adams to full professor status and pay him $50,000 in back pay in April.
“This is a great day, not only for Dr. Adams, but for all who value academic freedom,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “It sends a message to all public universities that they should not engage in this type of unconstitutional injustice and think there will be no consequences.”
“This is one of the biggest amounts awarded in the academic freedom context,” added ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “It’s a shame the university officials wasted taxpayer money all because they didn’t want to promote a conservative Christian.”