Prof fired by Catholic university for defending marriage has huge court win
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, July 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The professor forced out by a Jesuit-run Catholic university for blogging about an undergrad student being assailed by his teacher for his having voiced defense of marriage has won in court.
In a landmark decision Friday the Wisconsin Supreme Court said Marquette University violated John McAdams’ right to free speech when it suspended him for writing the blog post, and it ordered the University to restore McAdams immediately with his full rank, tenure, compensation and benefits.
“The undisputed facts show that the University breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract's guarantee of academic freedom,” court documents say.
The Court wrote further that, "we reverse the circuit court and ... order the University to immediately reinstate Dr. McAdams with unimpaired rank, tenure, compensation, and benefits."
Breaking details were shared on Twitter by Weekly Standard author Charlie Sykes.
The ruling from Wisconsin’s high court comes three years into litigation over the 2014 blog post.
McAdams sued the Jesuit-run University in 2015 for breach of his employment contract after it moved to fire him when he refused to apologize for exposing the graduate instructor who had quashed opposition of same-sex “marriage” in her class.
Marquette prevailed in the first round at the trial court, and McAdams appealed. The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to bypass the Court of Appeals and hear the case immediately, with arguments made before the Court in April.
Marquette alleged McAdams had violated professional responsibility toward graduate-student teacher Cheryl Abbate, causing her direct, irreparable harm with the November 9, 2014 blog post.
McAdams has continually disputed the assertion, telling LifeSiteNews the blog post was a pretext, and that Marquette has wanted to get rid of him for a long time.
The case pitting the outspoken political science professor against the University with liberal repute had gotten national attention with implications for what is viewed by many as a battle between political correctness and freedom of speech on college campuses nationwide. Various groups had weighed in in the case via amicus briefs.
In September 2015 a faculty hearing committee began a review and gave the recommendation in January 2016 for McAdams to be suspended without pay for up to two semesters.
McAdams had argued as well that he was denied due process in the faculty review and alleges bias in the review.
In March 2016 Marquette president Michael Lovell advised McAdams via a letter that not only was he suspended, but also that McAdams had until April 4 to provide him and Abbate with a written statement expressing “deep regret” and admitting his blog post was “reckless and incompatible with the mission and values of Marquette University.”
McAdams notified Lovell that he would not make the statement, because he did not believe its contents to be true, and sued May 2, 2016, arguing the University had broken its contractual agreement of academic freedom and free speech protected under the U.S. Constitution. He has been suspended ever since, without pay after the initial suspension period.
The November 2014 blog centered on an after-class exchange over gay “marriage” between an undergraduate student and Abbate, his grad student instructor for an ethics class.
During the conversation, Abbate told the student among other things that some opinions are not appropriate, that it would be offensive to gay students for him to express his opposition to gay “marriage” in class, and further, that homophobic comments would not be tolerated in the class.
In his blog post, McAdams had criticized the idea of a college instructor restraining the speech of a student based upon a point of view.
The student had felt his attempts to address his concerns over his conversation with Abbate with University leadership were unsuccessful and had approached McAdams, who was his advisor. McAdams emailed Abbate telling her he was writing about the exchange and asked for her version of what occurred.
Abbate did not respond to him.
She did, however, communicate with others about it, and various email and other discussions ensued among the parties involved before and after the blog post went live. Some of those made it into court documents, exhibiting divergent accounts of the events in the case.
McAdams had blogged in the past about concerns over the University’s Catholic identity, which he argued in the case was a factor in the University’s actions against him.
“In his blog, Professor McAdams has regularly taken positions contrary to majority sentiment among faculty and administrators on campus and has been highly critical of certain faculty colleagues and many in positions of authority at Marquette, including the president, provost, deans and department chairs,” the lawsuit says. “In general, Professor McAdams has been a critic of a set of values referred to by some as “political correctness” and, at times, has pointed out the tension between certain positions taken by Marquette and its Catholic identity.”
LifeSiteNews is following the details of the decision and will update as it unfolds.