The case of a university professor censored, punished and stripped of
his tenure for commenting on the definition of marriage has reached the
Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Thomas More Society argues in a friend-of-the-court brief
that the trials of John McAdams of Marquette University never should
have happened, because the First Amendment protects individuals’ opinion
Further, the university’s own contract with McAdams recognizes the constitutional protections and assures they will be honored.
McAdams, a professor at the Catholic university in Milwaukee for more
than 30 years, is a vocal conservative who was suspended after writing a
personal blog post critical of an incident that he viewed as a retreat
from the school’s Catholic tradition.
He defended an undergraduate student who approached a graduate student instructor after a Philosophy of Ethics class in 2014.
“The student explained that he did not favor same-sex marriage and
was dismayed that the teacher had not allowed discussion of a viewpoint
questioning same-sex marriage during class,” the legal team explained.
“The instructor told the student that she considered his opinion homophobic and therefore out of bounds.”
McAdams’ response was: “Like the rest of academia, Marquette is less
and less a real university. And when gay marriage cannot be discussed,
certainly not a Catholic university.”
Andrew Bath, Thomas More Society general counsel, said McAdams is
“entitled to express his opinions on matters of public concern in an
extracurricular public forum, even if they involve what happens at the
“The right to disagree on matters of public concern is protected by
the First Amendment and by academic freedom, which the university agreed
to respect in its contract with Dr. McAdams,” Bath said.
“For the university to punish faculty members like McAdams for their
speech on public issues amounts to an exercise in censorship, which
contradicts the university’s commitment to academic freedom and violates
the clear terms of Dr. McAdams’ contract of employment with Marquette.”
The university claimed the professor’s comments were “harassment,”
and one university official threatened Marquette would “not stand for
faculty members subjecting students to any form of abuse, putting them
in harm’s way.”
The professor was stripped of tenure, suspended without pay and ordered to apologize.
He refused and sued.
The brief explains that the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled that
no official “can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics,
nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to
confess by word or act their faith therein.”
That, the brief argues, is what Marquette is attempting.
“Unless this court follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s example in
upholding principles of free speech in times of trouble, McAdams will be
the latest victim in an ongoing witch-hunt aiming to ‘prescribe what
shall be orthodox.'”
The professor simply was commenting on “the browbeating of an
undergraduate student by his teacher after the teacher stifled classroom
discussion about the definition of marriage,” the briefing argued.
“This court should hold that Marquette breached its contract with
McAdams, in which it promised to respect his ‘rights guaranteed by the
United States Constitution,'” it said.
The case, centering on McAdam’s private speech, isn’t about McAdams’
work in the classroom or his speech on behalf of the school.
A district court decided the school’s censorial actions were appropriate.
WND reported Carl Gallups, pastor of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church in Milton, Florida, and author of “Be Thou Prepared: Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble,” said the case is part of a pattern of anti-Christian persecution.
“We predicted the Supreme Court ‘gay marriage’ ruling would increase
the targeting of Christians who insisted on holding to the traditional
and biblical model of marriage,” Gallups told WND. “Unfortunately, we
are constantly being confirmed as correct. Here is just one more, but
blatant, example of what we saw coming. And unless the godless and
rebellious ‘gay marriage’ course is reversed, the targeting will only
grow more intense.”
Gallups argued the persecution of Christians isn’t an inadvertent
side effect of the campaign for same-sex marriage. It was the objective
of homosexual-rights campaigners.
“This kind of targeting and marginalizing of the ‘intolerant’ was the
plan of the radical gay agenda all along,” he said. “The issue of
so-called gay marriage was never only about ‘being with the one you
love.’ No, the agenda of the radical gays was ultimately to use the
ruling as a judicial weapon against what most of the radicals hate most –
the Word of God and the people of God. These two things have long
thwarted the efforts of the godless, leftist, and radical agenda.”
The philosophy teacher, Cheryl Abbate, reportedly told a student,
“You don’t have a right in this class to make homophobic comments” when a
student disagreed with her decision to prevent discussion on the issue.
McAdams pointed out the “typical” tactic among liberals of condemning
ideas with which they disagree as not only wrong but “offensive.”
University spokesman Michael Lovell said a school committee released a 123-page report on the dispute.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based free-speech watchdog, lists Marquette as one of the worst schools for free speech in the nation.