Jury: UNCW retaliated against professor for views

Published: Apr. 9, 2014 at 3:52 PM EDT
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Dr. Mike Adams (Source: UNCW)
Dr. Mike Adams (Source: UNCW)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A jury in Greenville, North Carolina sided with a University of North Carolina Wilmington professor in his fight with the university. Dr. Mike Adams said the university retaliated against him for his conservative views published in an opinion column.

This is a legal battle that has gone on for the last seven years. Adams, a criminology professor at UNCW, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, claimed he was denied a promotion to full professor by UNCW officials because his religious and political views were contrary to those held by university officials. A jury agreed with Adams' claims.

Alliance representatives said Adams was an atheist when originally hired at UNCW as an assistant professor in 1993. He then earned the title of associate professor in 1998. Alliance claims that when Adams converted to Christianity in 2000, his views on political and social issues changed. It was this change in views that Alliance attorneys said cost Adams his promotion to full professor.

Adams won several awards at UNCW, including Faculty Member of the Year award, so when he was denied the promotion to full professor, he said his only recourse was to sue. Adams said, "I'm very grateful to the jury and very pleased with the verdict."

Upon hearing the jury's decision UNCW released this statement saying they will appeal the decision:

The university respectfully disagrees with the jury's verdict and will fully explore its options for appeal with the N.C. Attorney General's office. UNCW has been, and will continue to be, supportive of its faculty members' rights under the First Amendment. 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. In summarily dismissing two of the three claims originally brought by Dr. Adams, the court ruled that there was absolutely no evidence of religious discrimination, nor a basis for equal protection claims. We agreed with the court that these claims had no merit. 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.

Thursday's decision was preceded by a decision made in federal court that found "sufficient evidence" that showed Adams' First Amendment rights were protected when he chose to write the opinion column.

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