Published On: Thu, Mar 8th, 2018

Marquette sued over Dr John McAdams suspension, his defense of a student and free speech

Thomas More Society attorneys filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief today in a Wisconsin Supreme Court case, John McAdams v. Marquette University. The lawsuit involves a Marquette University professor who was punished for exercising his free speech rights in defense of an undergraduate student who was berated for expressing his opinion on same sex marriage.

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The Thomas More Society brief supports Dr. John McAdams, a professor at the Catholic university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for more than 30 years. Dr. McAdams, a vocal conservative, found himself suspended after writing a personal blog post critical of an incident that he viewed as a retreat from the school’s Catholic tradition.

Dr. McAdams came to the defense of an undergrad student who approached the 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 instructor told the student that she considered his opinion homophobic and therefore out of bounds.

Viewing this as an attack on academic freedom, Dr. McAdams, wrote, “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.”

The school chose to view Dr. McAdams’ action as “harassment” of the graduate student, rather than as defense of the undergraduate student and as advocacy for free discussion at the university. A university spokesman said that the school would “not tolerate harassment and will not stand for faculty members subjecting students to any form of abuse, putting them in harm’s way.”

Marquette suspended Dr. McAdams without pay, ordered him to apologize, and stripped him of tenure, in violation of his contract, in which it promised to respect his “rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Andrew Bath, Thomas More Society Executive Vice President and General Counsel, highlighted the main points of the amicus brief. “Dr. 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 university. 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.  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,” he explained.

Read the amicus curiae submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in John McAdams v. Marquette University, filed March 7, 2018 by Thomas More Society attorneys here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/180307-TMS-McAdams-Amicus-Brief-File-Stamped-Version.pdf].

About the Thomas More Society

The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago and Omaha, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit thomasmoresociety.org

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