A professor at the University of North Carolina’s Wilmington campus has come under fire for numerous anti-LGBT and Islamophobic statements, including remarks perceived as threats to individual students — but school officials say he has not violated any federal law or university policy.
Nada Merghani, a Muslim refugee from Sudan who identifies as queer, told The Daily Beast she had to leave the school after intense harassment by criminology professor Mike Adams, a conservative Christian who makes his anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim views known via Facebook, Twitter, and columns he writes for websites such as The Daily Wire and Townhall.
Merghani said she had never so much as spoken to Adams when he first attacked her — in a Facebook post in April 2015. “The only thing more disgusting than a jihadist Muslim is a pro-choice Muslim,” Adams wrote of Merghani. Then in August of that year, Adams wrote a column for The Daily Wire regarding a Facebook post of Mergani’s about Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to the UNC Wilmington campus, in which she said, “Y’all are not prepared for what I’m about to do.”
The Secret Service interpreted that as a threat and interviewed Mergani, then concluded she did not intend to try to harm Trump. “I could have saved them the trouble and let them know there was no need to fear a terrorist attack from the confused teenager,” Adams wrote. “Her claims to be a ‘queer Muslim’ are probably part of an act designed to fit into as many victim categories as possible.” The headline on his column was “A ‘Queer Muslim’ Jihad?”
Even though Adams did say Mergani was not a terrorist threat, he had done damage by even associating her with the words “terrorist” and “jihad,” according to Beast writer Jenn Hoffman. Mergani said a campaign of harassment by Adams and his supporters ensued, leading her to leave the university in November of this year because she felt unsafe.
Adams’s columns and social media posts regularly attack LGBT people, Muslims, feminists, and “leftists” in general. He has expressed incredulity that anyone could be queer and Muslim, saying, “If you choose a religion bent on executing you, nothing you say could be intelligent.” Of course, many Muslims do not believe gay people should be put to death.
In 2009, when two gay UNC Wilmington students were beaten unconscious after leaving a bar in the city, Adams was outraged that police were investigating the incident as a hate crime. In a Townhall column, he wrote that the students were assaulted not necessarily because they were gay, but because they were “drunk and stupid.” He lampooned the idea of hate-crimes laws while asserting that people could stay safe by carrying guns. “Gays have been much more likely to be attacked even if their attackers were not aware of their sexual orientation,” he wrote. “This is simply because gays are more likely to hang out in bars — places where they are not allowed to carry weapons in order to defend themselves.”
He has further likened gender-confirmation surgery to mutilation and called transgender people “mentally ill.” In a tweet this year, he addressed North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which among other things restricts transgender people’s restroom usage in government buildings. “Let’s make it illegal for doctors to mutilate the genitals of the mentally ill,” he wrote. “That would resolve this whole hb2 thing.” Among the many problems with his assertion is that some transgender people do not seek genital surgery.
UNC Wilmington officials say that nothing in Adams’s published statements provide grounds to fire him. “Dr. Adams’s online column and social media presence represent his personal expressions and opinions on a variety of topics,” said a statement issued by the university to the Beast. “These expressions and opinions are neither within the requested scope of Dr. Adams’s duties with the university, nor do they represent the views of the university. However, they are expressions protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
University administrators also said Adams has not made a “true threat” against Mergani or any other student, nor violated the school’s antiharassment policy or federal law concerning the privacy of student information.
Some students and professors say UNC Wilmington should adopt a stronger policy against hate speech or use Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which addresses when free speech crosses the line into creating a hostile environment, to deal with Adams. And more than 2,000 people have signed an online petition calling for his dismissal, the Beast reports.
But Adams could turn litigious. He once sued the university, alleging that he was denied a full professorship because of his political views. In a settlement, the university agreed to promote him and prevent retaliation against him.