The ruling handed down on Friday by the Wisconsin Supreme Court against Marquette University is a victory for free speech.
Conservative Professor John McAdams ran afoul of the university after he posted a critical critique regarding a teacher’s refusal in allowing open and frank discussions within her philosophy class, regarding gay marriage.
The dust-up began when a student within Cheryl Abbate’s class approached Abbate regarding the subject of gay marriage (which the student is opposed to) and suggested that she should provide a forum for a candid conversation concerning the sensitive issue.
Abbate’s response to the student’s suggestion was immediate, banning him from any such discussions within her class and letting him know she was extremely opposed to his views regarding gay marriage.
According to “The Atlantic”, she told the student: “You can have whatever opinions you want, but I can tell you right now, in this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated.”
She then told the student he was free to drop the class if he didn’t like what she said.
McAdams, after hearing about the incident and the subsequent response from the teacher, decided to post a response on his personal website in favor of free speech and open dialog.
The post apparently didn’t go over well with the Catholic university and within a matter of days, Professor McAdams was suspended from the school without tenure.
In a statement released by the university, the school maintains that McAdams violated his contract and the student teacher’s privacy by releasing her name and contact information.
The university also maintains that the publicity garnered from McAdams post made Abbate a target for hateful responders.
McAdams sued the university in 2016, arguing that he lost his job for exercising his freedom of speech. The university countered claiming that Professor McAdams wasn’t fired because of the content within his post, but because he publicly revealed the student teacher’s name, her personal website and other personal information that revealed who she was.
A lower court had originally ruled in favor of the university. However, upon appeal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of the conservative professor citing that the private university breached its written contract with Professor McAdams which “guaranteed academic freedom,” and thus should be immediately reinstated.
Ralph Weber, the attorney for the university had argued. “Had he written the exact same blog post and not included the teacher’s name and contact information he would not have been disciplined,”
Weber continued, “He’s being disciplined for his conduct, not any viewpoint.”
However McAdams’ attorney, Rick Esenberg, said that Weber’s argument was “fundamentally dishonest” and that all McAdams did was link to publicly available information, concerning Abbate.
Esenberg pointed out that Professor McAdams published his post on his personal website, “Marquette Warrior,” moreover arguing within the lawsuit that McAdams has used his website for more than a decade condemning political correctness and the silencing of ideas that might be hurtful to protected classes.
After the verdict the defense at Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty issued a joint statement; “Today the Supreme Court of Wisconsin delivered a clear, decisive victory for our client, Dr. John McAdams, a conservative political science professor who was indefinitely suspended by Marquette University for blogging on a controversial topic. The victory ends a nearly four-year fight between the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and Marquette University to have McAdams reinstated.”