The University of Montana’s Journalism School is being accused of denying a speaker on religious and political grounds. The Cole Memorial Scholarship has been a regular feature at the J-School for more than a decade, but benefactor Maria Cole says that the speaker she invited for the tenth anniversary Jeff Cole lecture has been denied a place to speak.

Cole invited professor Mike Adams from the University of North Carolina Wilmington who is famous for winning a 2014 First Amendment case in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in which he claimed his university was retaliating against him for his conservative views. Cole says Adams’ views aren’t welcome at the University of Montana either.

"The Journalism School is not excited about my inviting Dr. Adams to campus and they have strongly encouraged me to select another speaker, but I have already contracted to have Dr. Adams here and the previous nine years there have never been objections to my selection for a lecture so I find it a bit unusual now that this different voice is not welcome," Cole said.

Adams writes for the conservative website, is an opponent of abortion and a critic of the LGBT movement, Islamism and Marxism. His outspokenness on such topics has led to further speech-related charges of harassment.

An e-mail from UM Dean of Journalism Larry Abramson to Mrs. Cole lays out some of the reasons why Mr. Adams was not given a platform to speak, many of which appear to be hot-topic political issues:

If you jump in at 3:30 on the link at the bottom, you can hear him talking about his opposition to tolerance of transgender accommodations. He appears to be siding with Christians in the “culture war.” In this one he talks about his efforts to make sure that abortion providers give time to Christian speakers, in the interest of freedom of speech. He also talks about the prevalence of “cultural Marxism,” and exclusively speaks on right wing sites. In this one, he talks about why he will no longer allow “illegal aliens” into his classes.

I think we can find a speaker who will talk about free speech issues, without running the risk of offending students. We can still have a conversation with him if you want, but he is pretty extreme in his views.

When KGVO news asked Mr. Abramson about refusing the Mike Adams speech, Abramson said his "chief concern" was that Mr. Adams is not a journalist. He followed up by saying "[Adams] has attacked members of the LGBTQ community in public forums and, in my view, belittled people who would characterize themselves or that he would characterize as feminists and I think that some of those remarks could be interpreted as hate speech."

Cole points out that Mr. Adams writes for and says many of the past speakers that came were not working as journalists when they spoke at the University of Montana. Cole believes the push back is driven by ideology and that the issue of free speech is especially important for journalism students.

"I look at Berkely and I look at these other universities and I kind of see this push back towards having a different voice on campus," Cole said. "What I had hoped for the University of Montana was that they would embrace this opportunity and sort of be a shining example of: 'Yes, we are tolerant, we do accept different viewpoints.' I can't help but think that politics is playing a role here I would like to think that that is not happening, but I can't help but think that that's the reason."

Abramson says he doesn't believe there is any legal requirement to bring Mr. Adams to campus and indicated that Mr. Adam's "values" were not in line with the J-school.

"I'm not a lawyer, but I'm sure our lawyers would tell you that there are requirements that we accommodate different people's views, but the J-school does not have to invite people that we think don't match with our priorities or are values as a tolerant, welcoming school," Abramson said.

Despite resistance from the University of Montana, Cole says she has still contracted with Mr. Adams and will be bringing him to Montana in February. She is working to arrange an off-campus location and says the J-school will be invited to attend.

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