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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
Mike Adams, criminology professor at the University of North Carolina–Wilmington
Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams’ seven-year quest to vindicate his First Amendment freedoms concluded with a settlement in his favor Tuesday. In March, a federal jury ruled that the University of North Carolina–Wilmington illegally retaliated against Adams when it denied him a promotion in 2006 because of his conservative views.

As part of the settlement in Adams v. The Trustees of the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, the university agreed to drop its appeal of a federal district court’s decision in Adams’ favor. The university also agreed to promote Adams to the position of full professor and pay him $50,000 in back pay as the court ordered, to adopt procedures protecting Adams from renewed retaliation, and to pay $615,000 in attorneys’ fees.

“The outcome of this case reaffirms that public universities must respect the First Amendment freedoms of their professors regardless of the viewpoints they express,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “The university has chosen the right course in opting to stop defending its unconstitutional actions, to right the wrong done to Dr. Adams by granting him the promotion he has long deserved, and to protect him against future retaliation. Other universities watching this should understand that disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s political and religious views is not an acceptable reason to deny him a promotion.”

Since 2007, ADF attorneys have represented Adams along with lead counsel David French.

“This victory is not only good for Dr. Adams but for all who value academic freedom,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “It sends a strong message to all public universities not to engage in this type of injustice and think there will be no consequences.”

In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit determined that the First Amendment protects the opinion columns that Adams published, saying that “no individual loses his ability to speak as a private citizen by virtue of public employment.”

A former atheist, 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. Since his conversion to Christianity in 2000, the university subjected Adams to a campaign of academic harassment that culminated in the denial of his promotion to full professor, despite an award-winning record of teaching, research, and service.

  • Pronunciation guide: Barham (BEHR’-um)


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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