WILMINGTON -- An associate professor is suing the University of North Carolina Wilmington, claiming he was denied a promotion because of his conservative religious and political beliefs.
Mike Adams is a national columnist who has taught at the university since 1993. The Board of Trustees turned down his application for full professorship last fall.
Adams is seeking monetary damages and legal fees, but he says the fight is really about his reputation.
"From the time I was an atheist and a democrat and after the time I became a Christian, and an outspoken conservative as well, I think some of the people in the department are upset that I'm a follower of Jesus Christ and not a follower of Karl Marx" says Adams.
Adams, along with the Alliance Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the university of discrimination.
UNCW officials say Adams claims are unfounded.
"We categorically deny Mike Adams' statements... where he has claimed that he has been retaliated against for expressing his first amendment rights and that he has been discriminated against. We are prepared fully to defend ourselves," university officials said in a written statement.
One of Adams' students says he was surprised when he heard Adams was denied full professorship. While Adams is admittedly outspoken, he does not try to push his views on students, Todd Wilkins said.
"He has definitely been instrumental in me personally furthering my education and challenging me as a student to achieve opportunities I thought I would never come across," Wilkins said.
Adams has won several teaching awards, including UNCW Faculty Member of the Year in 1998 and again in 2000. He says he was floored when he received a letter from his department chair saying his teaching practices weren't up to par.
"How can I go in the classroom as a criminal justice professor and teach about justice and fairness and work for an employer that does this kind of thing without challenge?" Adams said.
Adams says he plans to see this case all the way through, and, with the backing of the Alliance Defense Fund, he has the resources to do that.
Adams also said he believes there was some foul play in the decision-making process - that the department chairman was not honest with him about the opinions of his peers.
He says a professor told him the majority of his colleagues backed his application for the promotion.