A federal jury in Greenville, N.C. has ruled in favor of a University of North Carolina Wilmington professor who sued the school in 2007, claiming he was denied a promotion to full professor because of his religious and speech discrimination.
Mike Adams, an associate professor of criminology, told The Wilmington Star-News
that he was "speechless" over the Thursday ruling in his favor, which came at the end of seven years of legal wrangling.
The school refused Adams the promotion in 2006, saying he did not merit the advancement due to professional reasons, not because of his religious or political beliefs.
However, Adams maintains he was denied the promotion because of his religious views, claiming the university retaliated against him for writing about his opposition to "leftist" universities, including UNCW, in columns for the conservative Townhall.com.
Adams said that by denying him the promotion, UNCW violated his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment rights for equal protection under the law.
When Adams began his teaching career at UNCW in 1993, he was an outspoken atheist and liberal, National Review
reports. He reached tenure in 1998, and had been widely praised at the university for his teaching and academic skills.
But after he visited a mentally handicapped prisoner on Texas' death row in 2000 and decided to read the Bible when he found the prisoner had read it and he had not, Adams says he had a religious conversion and eventually became a conservative as well.
Eventually, he started writing the Townhall columns, and Adams says the university in 2006 denied him the promotion to punish him, despite the numerous teaching awards and honors he had achieved.
A federal district court agreed with UNCW in 2010 that Adams' columns and books were included in his application for promotion, and were not protected under the First Amendment because they were part of his duties as a professor.
However, a federal appeals court overturned that ruling in 2011, and Thursday's federal jury upheld its ruling.
Adams' court battles likely aren't over. UNCW said Thursday that it "respectfully disagrees with the jury's verdict and will fully explore its options for appeal."
Further, the university said in a statement that it "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," the statement read. "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."
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