At the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Dr. Mike Adams teaches crime — but he never dreamed he’d be the victim of one. Unfortunately for the assistant professor, that all changed when his ideology did. When he was hired as a criminology expert 21 years ago, Adams was an avowed and outspoken atheist — a worldview that was shaken to the core when Mike went to visit a prisoner on death row in 2000. The convict, a mentally handicapped man, had read the entire Bible — something Adams had never done. He resolved then and there to change that — and when he did, Mike was completely transformed.
The once-vocal liberal became a passionate follower of Christ, a conversion that ultimately bled over into his political beliefs. Over time, he started writing columns and doing media appearances from a conservative perspective — infuriating UNCW’s forces of political correctness in the process. Like most universities, the faculty was a fraternity of liberals, who insist on diversity but practice anything but. After a slew of awards and accolades for his work, Mike applied for a full professorship in 2006.
Despite a glowing record, the University turned down his application. Apparently, the only promotion UNCW is interested in is the promotion of the liberal agenda. As his lead attorney, David French, writes in NRO, administrators engaged in the fiercest kind of viewpoint discrimination. It was “a process where they applied a made-up promotion standard that contradicted the faculty handbook, passed along false information about his academic record, deceptively edited documents to influence the faculty vote, explicitly discussed his constitutionally protected viewpoint, and allowed a faculty member with an obvious and outrageous conflict of interest to cast a vote against him.” At one point, the University even launched an underground investigation (at the request of a transgender group) to determine if the professor was “transphobic.”
Stunned, Adams sued, insisting the school had infringed on his free speech rights. After hearing the details, our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom agreed to represent Mike, and together they embarked on a seven year journey to right the University’s wrong. Last week, after winding through the appeals process, Mike Adams finally got the news he was waiting for. Although UNCW officials denied that they were retaliating against Adams for his faith — the court disagreed. After seeing the evidence, a federal jury agreed that Adams’s speech was a “substantial or motivating factor” in denying him a full professorship. When pressed, UNCW officials couldn’t prove that they would have made the same decision in the absence of his conservative beliefs. Although the case isn’t over (the court hasn’t decided what form of “relief” to grant — nor has the school decided whether to appeal), the victory is a major one.
ADF’s French understands the significance of the ruling for other conservatives oppressed by academic elites. “Dr. Adams’s story has now gone from a cautionary tale of the punishment that leftist universities inflect upon dissenters to a strong signal that conservative professors can indeed fight back and prevail.” As the 4th Circuit Court ruled on this same case, “No individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.” We applaud Dr. Adams for having the courage and the will to fight back. Unfortunately, in the world of higher education, there’s only one school of thought — and it isn’t tolerance.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.
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