Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Dr. Mike Adams
Dr. Mike Adams was on the academic fast track while serving the University of North Carolina-Wilmington as an atheist, but after the professor converted to Christianity in 2000, he alleges, the college put the clamps on his career.
In a lawsuit against the university, Adams claims he was subject to unmerited complaints and “invasive” investigations following his conversion. Furthermore, he believes his application for promotion from associate professor to a tenured full professor was denied because his nationally syndicated columns were deemed too politically conservative by his leftist peers.
“Christian professors should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs,” said David French, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Adams in the case. “Disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s religious and political views is no grounds for refusing him promotion.”
U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard, however, ruled against Adams last month, quoting a fellow professor’s claims that Adams hadn’t met minimum research and writing requirements and that his Christian, conservative writings were not “scholarly work by the measures of our discipline.”
But Adams contends his scholarly output surpassed that of almost all of his colleagues and that the senior faculty’s real beef with him lies in the content of his convictions.
The ADF has now appealed the case, concerned that the university is withholding Adams’ promotion because of the things Adams has written outside of the classroom and university.
“The First Amendment protects the ability of faculty to speak freely,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joe Martins in a statement. “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.”
Added French, “Opinion columns are some of the clearest examples of free speech protected by the First Amendment.”
In 1993, Adams was hired as an assistant professor of criminology at UNCW. He has since described himself then as “a leftist, an atheist and a card-carrying member of the ACLU.”
According to court documents, Adams earned numerous awards and accolades at UNCW, including strong teaching evaluations, an “impressive collection” of publications, “outstanding” peer reviews, and “an exemplary record of service” to the department, UNCW and the community. He earned two Faculty Member of the Year awards, and in 1998, he was promoted to associate professor.
But with Adams’ conversion to Christianity in 2000 came a conversion to more conservative political viewpoints.
In early 2001, Adams ruffled some feathers by sending emails to his colleagues voicing concern about the questioning of candidates for employment regarding their political preferences and faculty members airing anti-religious sentiments during the interview
Adams also began writing a nationally syndicated opinion column exposing political and religious bias and discrimination on college campuses, something that didn’t sit well with his colleagues, leading to interoffice disputes and tensions.
Court documents also record a pair of student confrontations with Adams over his political beliefs. In one instance, a student insisted Adams’ emails be investigated and in another Adams was accused of passing on “transphobic” views to students. In both cases, investigations found neither wrongdoing nor evidence Adams was allowing his political opinions to unduly influence his classroom performance.
Nonetheless, in the spring of 2004, faculty members described Adams to a local newspaper as “a wannabe right-wing pundit,” “mentally unbalanced” and a “pathological liar.”
In 2005, the UNCW Faculty Senate debated whether “collegiality” should be a condition of promotion and tenure, a dispute Adams felt was targeted at him. The Senate, however, ultimately rejected the proposal.
In July of 2006, Adams formally applied for promotion to full professor, but the senior faculty denied his application, claiming Adams performed solidly in the classroom but hadn’t demonstrated sufficient scholarly research or contribution to the university community.
Adams case has now been appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.