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Embattled Marquette professor John McAdams is refusing to apologize even if the university fires him.

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, April 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) –  The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Thursday in the case of a conservative professor who sued a Catholic university after it fired him for exposing on a blog pro-LGBT bias among a faculty member. 

Tenured professor Dr. John McAdams was fired by Jesuit-run Marquette University in 2015 when he refused to apologize for using his blog to expose a graduate instructor who wouldn’t allow criticism of same-sex “marriage” in her class. 

McAdams sued the university in McAdams v. Marquette for breach of his employment contract. Marquette won the first round at the trial court. McAdams appealed. The Supreme Court agreed to bypass the Court of Appeals and hear the case immediately.  

A decision is expected as early as June. 

Marquette says John McAdams violated professional responsibility toward graduate-student teacher Cheryl Abbate, causing her direct, irreparable harm with his November 9, 2014 blog post.

McAdams maintains he did no such thing, telling LifeSiteNews the blog post is a pretext, and that Marquette has wanted to get rid of him for a long time.

The case brought against Marquette by the outspoken political science professor has gained national attention, with implications for what many see is a political correctness and freedom of speech problem on college campuses across the country. Various groups have taken sides in the case via amicus briefs.

McAdams has the backing of the Thomas More Society, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the American Association of University Professors, the National Association of Scholars, Law and University Professors and Academics, the Great Lakes Justice Center and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Supporting Marquette are the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the firm representing McAdams, says McAdams v. Marquette is the most watched academic freedom case in the country and a victory for McAdams would serve as a bulwark for that freedom.

Chain of events

Marquette suspended McAdams in December 2014 over the blog post, also banning him from campus, and moved to revoke his tenure and fire him the following month.

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. 

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Then in March 2016 Marquette president Michael Lovell sent McAdams a letter advising him not only of the suspension, but going further to tell McAdams he 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 informed Lovell he would not make the statement, as he did not believe this to be true, and sued May 2, 2016, arguing the University broke 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 Milwaukee County Circuit Court heard the case in February 2017, and then that May Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher ruled in favor of Marquette. McAdams appealed the Circuit Court ruling last November (2017), and in January 2018 the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, bypassing the Court of Appeals. 

Forty-plus years of teaching, long-time tenure, and speaking out

McAdams joined the Marquette faculty in 1977 and has been tenured for 34 years. He has written his blog, the Marquette Warrior, for more than 11 years. 

“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,” according to the lawsuit. “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 has reported throughout the McAdams case, on issues raised in his blog, and other instances related to the University’s Catholic identity. These issues have involved support for gay “marriage,” gender ideology, on-campus LGBT Masses, the University hiring visiting professors, faculty and clergy espousing issues that conflict with fundamental Church teaching, and University sanctioned support for issues in contradiction to the Church.

Some opinions are not appropriate

The November 2014 blog post in question concerned an after-class exchange over gay “marriage” between an undergraduate student and his grad student instructor for an ethics class, Abbate. 

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. 

McAdams criticized the idea of a college instructor restraining the speech of a student based upon a point of view in the November 2014 blog post. 

The student 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.

She did not respond to him. Various discussions ensued among involved parties before and after the blog post went live, some ending up in court documents.

Divergent portrayals  

Marquette insists that McAdams jeopardized Abbate’s safety by publishing her name and contact information on his blog, and even that he “doxed” her, holding him responsible for the actions of others.

McAdams acknowledged he linked to Abbate’s blog, where with additional search steps her email address could be located if someone chose to do so. However, he maintains he did nothing to encourage anyone to contact Abbate.

The University contends McAdams exposed her to threats and hateful messages, and that his treatment of Abbate was not in line with Marquette’s Guiding Values as a Catholic, Jesuit university, which include care for the whole person.

McAdams points out and that while Abbate has received nasty emails, she herself has publicly stated she has not received actual threats over the matter.

Marquette alleges the professor did not exercise due care and standards of professional responsibility in his handling the situation. 

McAdams argues he was denied due process in the faculty review and alleges bias in that as well.

McAdams’ lawyers say a decision in the case expected in June or July.