A Victory for Free Speech: Atheist Turned Christian Professor Wins Lawsuit Against University

March 21, 2014 By 

Conservative professor wins lawsuit against his university that can only be described as a win for the First Amendment. Mike Adams began his career as a professor at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington in 1993. Adams was, at the time, an avowed atheist. University official recognized his work as he won numerous awards and received accolades.

Things changed when, in 2000, Adams converted from atheism to Christianity. He became an outspoken Christian conservative and began writing a column for Townhall.com in 2003. After this conversion, Adams began to experience extreme animosity towards him on the campus, which included baseless accusations and an attack on his once heralded work. He also found his career threatened as he was denied full professorship, despite his awards and recognition from the university. The Campus Fix reported on Adams’ experience.

“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,” accordingto the professor’s attorney, who assert 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.”

Adams’ radical conversion had been noted by many of his colleagues. The lawsuit contends his views began to “cause tension across campus,” so much so that his interim department chair “suggested that Adams alter his ‘tone’ to sound less ‘caustic.’” 

Adams sued the university citing First Amendment violations centered on his conversion from an atheist Democrat to a Christian Conservative. Star News Online reports that Adams won his lawsuit against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“I’m just really thrilled that the jury ruled in our favor,” he said. “I’m pleased and honored.”

In his lawsuit, Adams claimed he was denied promotion because of his religious views. Adams is a Christian and has written columns and books and appeared on radio and television programs to talk about his views. He also claimed he was retaliated against by the university when he spoke about his views by not receiving a promotion, saying that violated his First Amendment right to free speech, and that he was denied equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

A federal district court ruled in favor of UNCW in 2010, saying that since Adams included his columns and books as part of his application for promotion, they were part of his duties as a university professor and were not protected under the First Amendment. A federal appeals court overturned that ruling in 2011, and the jury upheld that Thursday.

The university is expected to appeal the jury’s decision.