Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution to prevent the government and its various institutions from limiting our God-given right to, among other things, speak and write freely about those things we think are important. Nowhere should that right be more important than on a public college or university campus, which “exists to educate students and advance the frontiers of human knowledge, and does so by acting as a ‘marketplace of ideas’ where ideas compete.” Unfortunately, the modern university campus is anything but a freewheeling “marketplace of ideas,” with the prevalence of speech codes and free speech zones – particular areas of campus where students are allowed to discuss or promote unpopular ideas- as well as the squelching of speech or activities which run counter to campus orthodoxy, as Mike Adams calls it in one of his many columns describing the stunning lack of intellectual diversity on US campuses.
Dr. Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington who just won a landmark free speech case against his employer, UNCW. As an assistant professor (starting in 1993) and then as an associate professor (1998), Dr. Adams received frequent accolades from his university colleagues. Unfortunately, all that happened before he converted from atheism to Christianity in 2000. His political and social views changed as a result, followed by “intrusive investigations, baseless accusations, and the denial of promotion to full professor even though his scholarly output surpassed that of almost all of his colleagues.”
Dr. Adams fought a seven-year battle with the university which culminated with a ruling by a federal jury that “the University of North Carolina-Wilmington illegally retaliated against Adams when it denied him a promotion in 2006 because of his conservative views.” The university appealed, of course, but decided this month to drop the appeal, as well as “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 attorney’s fees.” This is certainly good news for Dr. Adams and good news for students as well.
Dr. Adams’ story does point out the difficulties Christians and conservatives have on university campuses. If he had been a Christian and had been writing his conservative articles before he became a professor, would he have even been hired, or later, promoted? Probably not, because the university clearly had no interest in promoting a conservative Christian to full professor. Unfortunately, intellectual diversity is the one kind of diversity academia is loathe to promote. We can be glad that this ruling ensures that there is at least one conservative professor in the North Carolina University System!