Back in March, a federal district court in North Carolina ruled that Dr. Mike Adams’ nationally syndicated columns were not protected by the First Amendment. Dr. Adams—an accomplished criminology professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington—had simply mentioned his columns, books, and speeches in his application for promotion to full professor, but this was enough to remove them from the First Amendment umbrella according to the district court. At the time, the decision generated concern in the higher education world, including Inside Higher Education, about the future of First Amendment rights for faculty.
Well, the next chapter in Dr. Adams’ quest to end discrimination against Christian and conservative professors has now unfolded. Last week, ADF filed the opening brief in his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. And just days ago, the American Association of University Professors, FIRE, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression filed a friend of the court brief on his behalf.
Both briefs show how the district court misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos by applying it to faculty members at public universities. The Supreme Court specifically reserved this issue in Garcetti, and it did so for good reason. After all, professors are required to publish their viewpoints and opinions in order to further their careers. If the First Amendment does not protect those writings, “publish or perish” soon becomes “publish and perish.” And it is encouraging to see organizations from across the ideological spectrum come together to defend these fundamental freedoms and to ensure that the university campus remains the marketplace of ideas.