August 6, 2022

USA: Professor Won Lawsuit Against Shawnee State University In Ohio After It Forced Him To Call A Transgender Student By Their Preferred Pronouns Or BE FIRED or Suspended Without Pay.

USA Today
written by Megan Henry, The Columbus Dispatch
Tuesday April 19, 2022

Shawnee State University will pay a professor $400,000 in damages and attorney's fees to settle a lawsuit over not using a student’s pronouns.

In 2018, philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether called a transgender student “sir” during a lecture when she raised her hand, which sparked an investigation by school officials who found that Meriwether had created a “hostile environment."

He was given a written warning that he could be fired or suspended without pay for violating the university's nondiscrimination policy.

On March 26, 2021, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled that Meriwether could sue the university for what he said was a violation of his constitutional rights.

The settlement, which was reached April 14, rescinds the written warning the university issued in June 2018 and "affirms his right to address students consistent with his beliefs," according to the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian nonprofit organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona, that represented Meriwether in the case.

“We believe this not only protects the rights of Dr. Meriwether, it protects the rights of all professors to not be punished for simply declining to express an ideological belief that they disagree with,” said Tyson Langhofer, ADF's senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom.

Shawnee State said in a statement that it "made an economic decision to settle the Meriwether case."

"Though we have decided to settle, we adamantly deny that anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr. Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion. We continue to stand behind a student’s right to a discrimination-free learning environment as well as the rights of faculty, visitors, students and employees to freely express their ideas and beliefs. Over the course of this lawsuit, it became clear that the case was being used to advance divisive social and political agendas at a cost to the university and its students," the statement reads.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights said it is disappointed by the settlement.

"We believe his lawsuit should have been dismissed and would have failed had the case continued," Asaf Orr, senior staff attorney and director of the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in an email. "Regardless of this settlement, Shawnee State’s legal obligation to protect transgender students from discrimination remains intact. We remain committed to taking all necessary actions to safeguard the rights of transgender students at Shawnee State.”

The organization Equality Ohio is concerned about the effect the ruling could have on students' speech.

“We are encouraged by the number of colleges and universities that continue to do the right, legal thing and use correct student names and pronouns and visibly support their LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff," Deputy Director Siobhan Boyd-Nelson said in an email.

Pronouns at Shawnee State

In 2018, the student, who is identified in court documents as Jane Doe, asked that Meriwether use her pronouns. Meriwether refused the request.

Meriwether contended that the university's action violated his First Amendment right to free speech and free exercise of religion and sued in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus.

"Since Meriwether has plausibly alleged that Shawnee State violated his First Amendment rights by compelling his speech or silence and casting a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom, his free-speech claim may proceed," the appeals court's 32-page opinion states.

Meriwether, who has taught at Shawnee State since 1996, told The Dispatch that his Christian faith was a big reason why he chose not to call the student by her pronouns. He said he also had philosophical, scientific and biological reasons.

Shawnee State, which had 3,135 students enrolled for fall 2021, is 92 miles south of Columbus in Portsmouth, Ohio. The university adopted a nondiscrimination policy on April 12, 2019, that prohibits discrimination over gender identity. There is no specific pronoun policy.
Alliance Defending Freedom published Tyson Langhofer and Dr. Nicholas Meriwether on Fox News' America Reports.

BizPac Review
written by Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
Tuesday April 19, 2022

Shawnee State University professor Nicholas Meriwether won a protracted lawsuit and was awarded $400,000 after he sued the Ohio academic institution for demanding that he use a student’s preferred pronouns, calling the mandate an assault on his freedom of speech that went against his Christian beliefs.

“The student approached me after class and said that he wanted to be referred to as a female, and I tried to find an accommodation with the student. I was willing to use his proper name, female proper name, and initially, the administration was willing to go along with that, but then the administration changed course and demanded that I defer to the ideology, that I refer to the student as a female and I simply could not do that,” Meriwether bluntly told Fox News’ “America Reports” in an interview on Monday.

“I believe that God created men and women, male and female. But also the idea that my speech could be coerced, could be compelled by the administration … The college classroom is to be a place of debate and discussion and freewheeling ideas. The university has no place in telling professors how they are to think with the students. It was a coercion of my freedom of speech,” he asserted.

Court documents show that the student became belligerent when Meriwether refused to use the demanded pronouns and told him he would be fired. Then the student said, “I guess this means I can call you a cu**.”

Meriwether was originally punished by the university in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 2018 after the student filed a complaint. The educational outlet claimed that it was Meriwether’s job and somehow his duty to use such language and therefore was not considered First Amendment-protected speech. The professor fought back by suing the university, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated when they forced him to go against his Christian beliefs.

The suit was initially dismissed, but on March 26, 2021, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal and then unanimously ruled that Meriwether’s freedom of speech had been violated.

“The First Amendment interests are especially strong here because Meriwether’s speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical beliefs,” Judge Jamal Thapar wrote in the historic decision.

“If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,” Thapar wrote.

Alliance Defending Freedom [ADF] represented Meriwether in court and won the precedent-setting case for him.

“After a three-year fight against the university, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reportedly ruled in 2021 that Meriwether’s rights had been violated,” Fox 11 reported on the momentous win for the professor.

“Shawnee State University officials punished philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns (“Miss,” “she,” etc.). Although the philosophy professor offered to use any name the student requested, the university rejected that compromise, choosing instead to force the professor to speak and act contrary to his own Christian convictions and philosophical beliefs,” a statement by the ADF noted.

“This case forced us to defend what used to be a common belief—that nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep their job,” ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham commented via the release. “Dr. Meriwether went out of his way to accommodate his students and treat them all with dignity and respect, yet his university punished him because he wouldn’t endorse an ideology that he believes is false. We’re pleased to see the university recognize that the First Amendment guarantees Dr. Meriwether—and every other American—the right to speak and act in a manner consistent with one’s faith and convictions.”

“Public universities should welcome intellectual and ideological diversity, where all students and professors can engage in meaningful discussions without compromising their core beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, remarked. “Dr. Meriwether rightly defended his freedom to speak and stay silent, and not conform to the university’s demand for uniformity of thought. We commend the university for ultimately agreeing to do the right thing, in keeping with its reason for existence as a marketplace of ideas.

Langhofer hopes that the win will send a warning to other universities over woke pronoun usage and constitutional rights.

“It is done, and we are hopeful it sends a message to all universities and professors that you know, we shouldn’t be compelling professors to say things they don’t believe,” Langford stated, according to Fox News.

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