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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

GREENVILLE, N.C. — A federal court Tuesday ordered the University of North Carolina–Wilmington to pay $710,626.50 in the wake of a seven-year lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys won on behalf of criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams. In April, the court ordered UNCW to grant Adams a promotion denied to him in 2006 because of his conservative views and pay him back pay.

“Public universities must respect the free speech rights of their professors, regardless of the points of view they express,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham. “Public universities should be a marketplace of ideas, not places where professors like Dr. Adams face years of retaliation and discrimination for expressing views university officials do not like. The court’s order reminds universities that disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is not grounds for denying him a promotion.”

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

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

“This is one of the biggest amounts awarded in the academic freedom context,” added ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “It’s a shame the university officials wasted taxpayer money all because they didn’t want to promote a conservative Christian.”

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 persecution 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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