Free-Speech Squall at Marquette University

     MILWAUKEE (CN) — Marquette University says it is not worried about the lawsuit it faces from a professor it suspended after he defended opponents of gay marriage.
     Though John McAdams filed the suit Monday in circuit court, the blog post at the heart of the case dates back to late 2014.
     McAdams says he makes a point of taking politically incorrect positions on his blog, The Marquette Warrior, and will not shy away from an opportunity to “point[] out the tension between certain positions taken by Marquette and its Catholic identity.”
     Back in 2014, McAdams says he obtained a recording of a conversation between a Marquette undergrad and his philosophy instructor, Cheryl Abbate.
     The student spoke out because Abbate allegedly stifled “opposing views on the topic of gay marriage.”
     “Ms. Abbate, speaking in her own words as a ‘professor of ethics,’ made it clear that – regardless of the context or the ways in which it was communicated – opposition to gay marriage was homophobic, offensive, and would not be permitted to be expressed in her class,” McAdams’ complaint states.
     McAdams says Marquette suspended him that December, just over a month after he published a blog post “criticizing [Abbate] for her conduct towards the undergraduate student and criticizing the Marquette administration for not properly addressing the conduct by Ms. Abbate.”
     The Nov. 9, 2014, blog post chides Abbate for “using a tactic typical among liberals now.”
     “Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up,” McAdams wrote.
     A new suspension against McAdams, this one unpaid, took effect this past April, according to the complaint. McAdams notes that he missed an April 4 deadline to apologize, so the school plans to fire him effective Jan. 17, 2017.
     “While not everyone may agree with what Professor McAdams had to say, the position taken by the blog post – that opposition to same sex marriage ought not to be dismissed as homophobic or offensive – is hardly out of bounds in civil society, much less at a Catholic university,” the complaint states.
     Marquette meanwhile frames the incident as one of harassment.
     In an FAQ article on its website, the school notes that Abbate was a graduate student instructor who faced “a constant stream of threats and hateful messages” as a result of the professor’s blog and later commentary on radio and cable television.
     “Dr. McAdams has been blogging for more than a decade, publishing approximately 3,000 posts, and the university administration has never disciplined him,” the FAQ reads. “Where Dr. McAdams crossed the line is when he launched a personal attack against a student, subjecting her to threats and hateful messages.”
     Richard Esenberg, an attorney for McAdams with the conservative public interest law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, rejected Marquette’s explanation in a press conference on the suit.
     Abbate faced harassment from “bottom-feeders of the internet,” Esenberg said, adding that Marquette cannot hold McAdams responsible for their actions.
     Esenberg also compared the requirement that McAdams apologize to “a Soviet show trial.”
     McAdams slapped Marquette with six contract claims, including bad faith and violation of his due-process rights. Though the professor is seeking monetary damages, Esenberg told the crowd of reporters Monday that no dollar amount would make McAdams abandon his lawsuit.
     “This is a case about a principle,” Esenberg said. “This is a case about establishing that academic freedom means freedom. Free speech means free.”
     Trumpeting its 164-page report on the incident, Marquette is welcoming McAdams’ challenge.
     “The public will hear a comprehensive account of Dr. McAdams’ mistreatment of our former graduate student, rather than the select details he has handpicked to promote his false narrative,” the university said in a statement.

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