Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina–Wilmington
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Description: Dr. Mike Adams, a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, frequently received accolades from his colleagues after the university hired him as an assistant professor in 1993 and promoted him to associate professor in 1998. At the time he was an atheist, but his conversion to Christianity in 2000 impacted his views on political and social issues. After this, he was subjected to 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. In a lawsuit filed against the university on Adams’ behalf, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys contended that the university denied Adams a promotion because his nationally syndicated opinion columns espoused religious and political views that ran contrary to the opinions held by university officials.
Final victory: UNCW won’t appeal ruling in favor of professor denied promotion for his views
University agrees to drop appeal, promote Dr. Mike Adams, pay $665,000 in back-pay, attorneys’ fees
As part of the settlement in Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, the university agreed to drop its appeal of a federal district court’s decision in Adams’ favor. The university also agreed to promote Adams to the position of full professor and pay him $50,000 in back pay as the court ordered, to adopt procedures protecting Adams from renewed retaliation, and to pay $615,000 in attorneys’ fees.
“The outcome of this case reaffirms that public universities must respect the First Amendment freedoms of their professors regardless of the viewpoints they express,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “The university has chosen the right course in opting to stop defending its unconstitutional actions, to right the wrong done to Dr. Adams by granting him the promotion he has long deserved, and to protect him against future retaliation. Other universities watching this should understand that disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s political and religious views is not an acceptable reason to deny him a promotion.”
Since 2007, ADF attorneys have represented Adams along with lead counsel David French, who began the case with ADF and now litigates for the American Center for Law and Justice.
“This victory is not only good for Dr. Adams but for all who value academic freedom,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “It sends a strong message to all public universities not to engage in this type of injustice and think there will be no consequences.”
In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit determined that the First Amendment protects the opinion columns that Adams published, saying that “no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.”
A former atheist, Adams frequently received accolades from his colleagues after the university hired him as an assistant professor in 1993 and promoted him to associate professor in 1998. Since his conversion to Christianity in 2000, the university subjected Adams to a campaign of academic harassment that culminated in the denial of his promotion to full professor, despite an award-winning record of teaching, research, and service.
- “Speak Up” University website
- Pronunciation guide: Barham (BEHR’-um)
Additional resources: Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina–Wilmington
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Previous news releases:
- 2014-06-11: University sticks taxpayers with $700,000 bill for retaliating against conservative professor
- 2014-04-09: Court orders UNC–Wilmington to pay, promote professor after retaliating against him
- 2014-03-20: Jury finds UNC–Wilmington retaliated against professor
- 2014-03-14: UNC–Wilmington on trial for retaliation against professor
- 2011-04-06: Victory for academic freedom: 4th Circuit says professor’s speeches, columns protected by First Amendment
- 2011-01-25: Renowned professor challenges promotion denial over religion in appellate hearing
- 2010-07-02: UNC professor denied promotion over opinion columns gains significant support
- 2010-04-12: ADF appeals decision that ruled professor’s opinion columns unprotected by First Amendment
- 2010-03-17: Judge rules professor’s opinion columns not protected by First Amendment
- 2008-04-04: Court refuses to dismiss professor’s discrimination suit against UNC–Wilmington
- 2007-01-10: ADF sues UNC–Wilmington on behalf of conservative pundit and professor Mike Adams
Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.