Judge rules Christian professor who rejected transgender pronouns can sue school

A case involving an Ohio professor’s failure to use proper pronouns encapsulates the insanity that governs college campuses today.

Fortunately for Shawnee State University philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether, a federal appeals court ruled in his favor last week, saying the Christian professor can sue the school for damages after he was reprimanded in 2016 for refusing to address a transgender student by her preferred pronouns.

Having deemed the debate over on whether a man can become a woman, if he so chooses, or vice versa, liberals are now focusing on language.

Meriwether argued that a new rule by Shawnee State requiring faculty to refer to students by their preferred pronouns was not in line with “biological reality,” and contradicted his devout Christian beliefs, according to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The professor appeared on Fox News in Sept. 2019, to discuss his side of the case:

A transgender student referred to in court as “Doe,” who was transitioning from male to female, complained to university officials about Meriweather repeatedly refusing to use feminine pronouns, which allegedly created a “hostile environment” in violation of the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

The professor was given a written warning about his conduct, and told he could be suspended without pay or fired for continuing to violate the policy, according to Fox News.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Shawnee State faculty union filed a grievance on behalf of Meriwether and, while school officials agreed that his conduct did not create a hostile environment, they denied the grievance, claiming  the case was related to “differential treatment.”

Meriwether’s response was to file a lawsuit, alleging that he cannot address “a high profile issue of public concern that has significant philosophical implications” and that the warning letter made it “difficult, if not impossible,” for him to obtain a position at another institution, the article noted.

“The First Amendment interests are especially strong here because Meriwether’s speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical beliefs,” said circuit judge Amul Thapar, who noted that Doe did receive a “high grade” in the class, meaning it could not have been that hostile.

“If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,” the Trump-appointed judge wrote. “A university president could require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of God, or a Soviet émigré to address his students as ‘comrades.’ That cannot be.”

“By forbidding Meriwether from describing his views on gender identity even in his syllabus, Shawnee State silenced a viewpoint that could have catalyzed a robust and insightful in-class discussion,” Thapar added.

The case now goes back to the Cincinnati judge who dismissed it in February 2020.

Meriwether is represented by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom organization.

“Nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep their job,” said John Bursch, an ADF  lawyer.

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Tom Tillison

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