Pro-Marriage Prof Wins Suit Against Marquette University

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 9, 2018   

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules in favor of John McAdams

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MADISON, Wisconsin (ChurchMilitant.com) - A professor won his lawsuit against a Jesuit university accused of censoring him for his Christian view of marriage. 

On July 6, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with political science professor John McAdams in his legal battle with Marquette University — overturning a previous ruling in a lower court. The Jesuit college pushed McAdams out of his position in 2014 after he made a blog post defending a student who got chewed out by an instructor for speaking up in favor of traditional marriage, suspending McAdams without pay.

The court ordered Marquette University to reinstate McAdams, stating, "We reverse the circuit court and ... order the University to immediately reinstate Dr. McAdams with unimpaired rank, tenure, compensation and benefits."

"I'm elated," McAdams said of the court's ruling. "It's been three-and-a-half years of being in limbo, one legal hassle after another."

It's been three-and-a-half years of being in limbo, one legal hassle after another.

After McAdams' blog post in November 2014, university officials began the long process of penalizing him. The Faculty Hearing Committee decided in 2016 to suspend McAdams without pay. The president of the university said McAdams could not return from suspension without a written apology.


The court reasoned that the Jesuit university had breached the promise of academic freedom guaranteed in professors' contracts. 

The court ruled, "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."

McAdams' 2014 blog post that sparked the trouble was about how a Marquette student was told to keep quiet after speaking out in favor of the traditional understanding of marriage during a discussion in class about same-sex relationships. The blog post provided contact information for Cheryl Abbate, the instructor responsible for shutting down the discussion.

Although the university is obeying the court order, it is also refusing to admit any wrongdoing. Marquette officials said in a statement, "This case has never been about academic freedom or a professor's political views." 

"Had the professor published the same blog without the student-teacher's name or contact information, he would not have been disciplined," the university argues.

Abbate allegedly told the pro-marriage student, "You don't have a right in this class to make homophobic comments," adding, "In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated."

She encouraged the student to drop the class, which he did.

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.

The university claims that McAdams' blog post made the instructor Abbate "the target of a torrent of abusive communications that led her to fear for her safety and ultimately to leave Marquette in the middle of the academic year."

But the text of McAdams' lawsuit claims, "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."

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities sided with Marquette, arguing that its punishment of McAdams was in accord with the university's "Jesuit mission."

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