On Thursday, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court ruled against former Marquette University professor John McAdams in an academic freedom case.
McAdams was suspended from Marquette last spring for a November 2014 blog post he wrote criticizing another faculty member’s alleged attempt to bar a student who opposed same-sex marriage from speaking in a “Theory of Ethics” class. Marquette administrators ordered McAdams to retract his criticism of teaching assistant Cheryl Abbate at the penalty of losing his tenured position at the historically Catholic university.
McAdams posted excerpts from a letter he received from Marquette officials on his blog, “The Marquette Warior,” noting that the apology he was asked to provide was “reminiscent of the Inquisition, in which victims who ‘confessed’ they had been consorting with Satan and spreading heresy would be spared execution.”
Needless to say, McAdams did not retract his statement, and was duly penalized by the university. The professor then filed a lawsuit against Marquette for breach of his employment contract.
Following Thursday’s ruling, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), who represents McAdams, issued a press release lamenting the decision of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher:
Judge Hansher adopted the [Marquette faculty hearing committee’s] cramped and unsupported view of academic freedom and the First Amendment. He concluded that because naming Abbate could conceivably bring negative attention to her, McAdams was prohibited from doing so.
“No college professor in Wisconsin has any real protection if that’s the standard,” Rick Esenberg, President and General Counsel of WILL, said of the ruling. “If a professor can be held responsible for the actions of every person who reads or even hears about what the professor writes, then they have no protections at all. By that standard, every professor who was publicly critical of McAdams should be fired too.”
McAdams has already announced plans to repeal what he believes to be an unfair and biased ruling.
“This is another example of the increasing unwillingness of colleges to stand up for free speech,” the professor told WILL Thursday. “Hardly a day passes without an example of a speaker being shouted down, or disinvited, or a student being punished for some innocuous (but politically incorrect) comment on social media.”
Esenberg asserted that his organization “will take this case as far as it needs to be taken to vindicate McAdams’ — and all professors’ — rights to freedom of speech and academic freedom.”
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