CASEAdams v. Trustees of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington

Client Story
Dr. Mike Adams

In 1993, Dr. Mike Adams, a self-declared atheist and liberal, began working at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNCW). Initially, he was highly esteemed by both his students and peers. Dr. Adams won many honors, including two-time Professor of the Year, and he outpaced many of his fellow teachers in scholarly publications and awards for outstanding teaching and community service.

 

During a 1996 teaching exchange in Ecuador, Dr. Adams had an encounter at a prison with death-row inmates that had a life-changing spiritual effect on him. “I really began to see the absurdity of the relativistic worldview, and it lit a fire in me,” he said. After a few years of study and questions, Dr. Adams became a Christian. His new faith also significantly impacted his political views. In his free time, Dr. Adams began publishing online columns that addressed cultural and political issues from a conservative perspective and that critiqued higher education.

Dr. Adams’s co-workers didn’t take too kindly to his new found Christian faith and worldview. They began acting hostile towards him, calling him a liar and mean-spirited, gave him poor evaluations, and even launched a secret investigation against him.

In 2006, Dr. Adams applied for promotion to full professor. In his application, he mentioned that he also wrote online columns. Even with his admirable professional achievements, his promotion was not inevitable. The news came; Dr. Adams was denied his rightly deserved promotion.

He immediately knew what to do:

“Five days after the denial of promotion, I got the letter explaining why I was denied, saying I was deficient in all areas—teaching, research, and service. I was sitting in my office with a service award to my left, UNCW Professor of the Year 1998 in front of me, and UNCW Professor of the Year 2000 to my right. It was very easy for me to pick-up the phone and call Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and move forward with my lawsuit.”

After ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Adams against UNCW in 2007, the district court ruled in UNCW’s favor, saying Dr. Adams’s columns in an online publication were not protected by the First Amendment because they were mentioned in his promotion application.

Alliance Defending Freedom appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which ultimately reversed the decision and sent it back to the district court. In March 2014, after a four-day trial, a federal jury ruled that UNCW violated Dr. Adams’s First Amendment rights.

After the verdict, the court ordered UNCW to promote Dr. Adams to full professor and pay him $50,000 in back pay. UNCW initially appealed the case, but later settled the case, agreeing to drop the appeal, to adopt procedures to protect Dr. Adams from renewed retaliation, and to pay his attorneys’ fees.

When asked how he sees this win having an impact on Christians at other universities, Dr. Adams said, “First of all, it shows that professors can speak out on issues of public concern, and integrate that within their work as professors, and not be punished for their viewpoint. But also, it shows that a conservative can stand up and fight—with ADF—and that there is a chance. David can face Goliath and prevail.”

 


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Summary
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.
News Releases

Final victory: UNCW won’t appeal ruling in favor of professor denied promotion for his views

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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

Jul 16, 2014 Read More

University sticks taxpayers with $700,000 bill for retaliating against conservative professor

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University sticks taxpayers with $700,000 bill for retaliating against conservative professor

Court awards attorneys’ fees, costs for seven-year litigation battle

Jun 11, 2014 Read More

Court orders UNC–Wilmington to pay, promote professor after retaliating against him

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Court orders UNC–Wilmington to pay, promote professor after retaliating against him

Judge says university must promote Mike Adams to job it denied him, pay $50,000 in back pay

Apr 09, 2014 Read More

Jury finds UNC–Wilmington retaliated against professor

Religious Freedom

Jury finds UNC–Wilmington retaliated against professor

ADF: Verdict is huge victory for academic freedom, free speech at public universities

Mar 20, 2014 Read More

UNC–Wilmington on trial for retaliation against professor

Religious Freedom

UNC–Wilmington on trial for retaliation against professor

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney available for media interviews each day of trial

Mar 14, 2014 Read More

Victory for academic freedom: 4th Circuit says professor’s speeches, columns protected by First Amendment

Religious Freedom

Victory for academic freedom: 4th Circuit says professor’s speeches, columns protected by First Amendment

Decision against UNC-Wilmington sets significant precedent protecting professors who express their views on religious, political topics

Apr 06, 2011 Read More

Renowned professor challenges promotion denial over religion in appellate hearing

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Renowned professor challenges promotion denial over religion in appellate hearing

ADF attorney available for media interviews following oral arguments challenging UNC-Wilmington’s discrimination against Christian professor over opinion columns

Jan 25, 2011 Read More

UNC professor denied promotion over opinion columns gains significant support

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UNC professor denied promotion over opinion columns gains significant support

First Amendment protected rights of UNC-Wilmington professor championed by AAUP, FIRE after ADF files first brief in appeal

Jul 02, 2010 Read More

ADF appeals decision that ruled professor’s opinion columns unprotected by First Amendment

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ADF appeals decision that ruled professor’s opinion columns unprotected by First Amendment

ADF attorneys file notice of appeal in lawsuit against UNC-Wilmington

Apr 12, 2010 Read More

Judge rules professor’s opinion columns not protected by First Amendment

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Judge rules professor’s opinion columns not protected by First Amendment

ADF attorneys considering appeal of decision in lawsuit against UNC-Wilmington

Mar 17, 2010 Read More

Court refuses to dismiss professor’s discrimination suit against UNC-Wilmington

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Court refuses to dismiss professor’s discrimination suit against UNC-Wilmington

Suit filed by ADF attorneys argues university denied full professorship to conservative professor and columnist Mike Adams because of his beliefs

Apr 04, 2008 Read More

ADF sues UNC-Wilmington on behalf of conservative pundit and professor Mike Adams

Religious Freedom

ADF sues UNC-Wilmington on behalf of conservative pundit and professor Mike Adams

Adams denied promotion because of religious beliefs and conservative political viewpoint

Apr 10, 2007 Read More
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Documents
https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---settlement-agreement.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---judgment-concerning-attorneys-39-fees-and-costs.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---order-and-judgment-concerning-promotion-and-back-pay.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---jury-verdict.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---district-court-judgment-following-jury-verdict.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---denial-of-defendant-s-motion-for-summary-judgment.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---summary-judgment-response-brief.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---4th-circuit-opinion.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---amicus-brief-by-aaup-and-others.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---opening-appellate-brief.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---notice-of-appeal.pdf?sfvrsn=6https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/adams-v-trustees-of-the-university-of-north-carolina-wilmington---summary-judgment-order.pdf?sfvrsn=6
Court Title Date
Trial Court
Settlement agreement Jul 09 2014
Trial Court
Judgment concerning attorneys' fees and costs Jun 10 2014
Trial Court
Order and judgment concerning promotion and back-pay Apr 08 2014
Trial Court
Jury verdict Mar 20 2014
Trial Court
District court judgment following jury verdict Mar 20 2014
Trial Court
Denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment Mar 22 2013
Trial Court
Summary judgment response brief Nov 04 2011
Appellate Court
4th Circuit opinion Apr 06 2011
Appellate Court
Amicus brief by AAUP and others Jul 02 2010
Appellate Court
Opening appellate brief Jun 28 2010
Appellate Court
Notice of appeal Apr 09 2010
Trial Court
Summary judgment order Mar 15 2010

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