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

ADF attorneys file notice of appeal in lawsuit against UNC-Wilmington
Monday, April 12, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund representing a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington appealed a federal judge’s decision Friday in a lawsuit against the school.

ADF attorneys argue that the university refused to promote Dr. Mike Adams to full professor because of his religious beliefs and political viewpoints, as espoused through nationally syndicated opinion columns that he has written. The judge found last month that his columns are not protected by the First Amendment simply because he made reference to them on a promotion application.

“Christian professors should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for refusing him promotion,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “Opinion columns are some of the clearest examples of free speech protected by the First Amendment. Mentioning them on a promotion application does not change that.”

“The First Amendment protects the ability of faculty to speak freely,” added ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joe Martins. “If allowed to stand, this decision could have huge ramifications for the free speech rights of university professors, who are often required to author articles to further their careers.”

Adams 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 when he was an atheist. However, intrusive investigations, baseless accusations, and the denial of promotion to full professor followed his conversion to Christianity in 2000, even though his scholarly output surpassed that of almost all of his colleagues.

ADF attorneys representing Adams sued UNCW in April 2007, arguing that he was harassed and denied a promotion because his Christian beliefs did not coincide with the political and philosophical stance of his superiors. The court denied the university’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit in 2008.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division, issued its summary judgment order in Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington on March 15.


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.