This is good news for Christians and their First Amendment rights.
In late March, the 6th District Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, had violated the First Amendment rights of Dr. Nick Meriwether, a devout Christian who was punished by the school for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.
Following that ruling, Shawnee State has finally agreed to pay a settlement of $400,000 for violating Prof. Meriwether’s right to free speech and free exercise of religion.
In 2016, Shawnee State University adopted a policy that required the use of pronouns that match the gender identity of students. Prof. Meriwether, a philosophy professor who had taught at the school for 25 years, pushed back immediately saying that the policy violated his beliefs as a Christian, but his complaints to his department chair were dismissed.
On the first day of the January 2018 semester, Prof. Meriwether replied to a student’s question, “Yes, sir.”
The male student identifies as transgender, so after class went to Meriwether and requested that he be referred to as a woman and addressed with female pronouns.
Meriwether said that he couldn’t comply because of his religious belief that gender is determined at the moment of conception.
The student became irate and replied, “I guess this means I can call you a cu**,” and filed a complaint against Meriwether with the school.
Dean Roberta Millikan told Meriwether not to use any gendered pronouns in his class which he said was nearly impossible to do. Meriwether countered that he could simply use the student’s last name only and the Dean agreed.
Meriwether mistakenly called the student “Mr.” before correcting himself, but it was too late. The student filed another complaint.
Meriwether agreed to use students’ preferred pronouns if he could state in his course syllabus that he was only doing so “under compulsion” and include his own personal and religious beliefs on gender identity.
Dean Millikan refused on the grounds that it would violate the school’s gender identity policy.
For the next several months, a series of compromises were discussed between the administration and Meriwether, but the student kept filing more complaints over the semester. The school then conducted a Title IX investigation against him, he said.
The Title IX office ultimately concluded that Meriwether’s treatment of the student created a “hostile environment,” and the dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences recommended putting a formal warning in his file.
If these behaviors were to continue, he could face further corrective actions, including suspension without pay or termination, according to his account. The faculty union intervened on Meriwether’s behalf but was unable to exempt him from the policy, and Meriwether filed his lawsuit in 2018.
It’s kind of rich that the Title IX office suggests that it was Meriwether and not the student that was creating a “hostile environment” since these were clearly malicious complaints meant to punish Meriwether for refusing to acknowledge the alternative reality of the transgender student.
The school filed a formal warning against Meriwether and told him that “further corrective actions” would be taken unless he complied with the school’s gender identity policy.
Meriwether said that the warning would make it extremely difficult for him to find another job as a professor and that the muzzle on gendered language has prevented him from addressing any gendered issues in his class for fear of violating policy.
He then launched a lawsuit against his employer for violating his First Amendment rights.
Initially, the case was dismissed, but the 6th Circuit overturned the dismissal and unanimously ruled in Meriwether’s favor.
“The First Amendment interests are especially strong here because Meriwether’s speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical beliefs,” wrote Judge Amul Thapar in the decision. “If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity.”
On Friday Shawnee State settled with Meriwether and agreed to pay him $400,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.
‘Public universities should welcome intellectual and ideological diversity, where all students and professors can engage in meaningful discussions without compromising their core beliefs,’ said Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
‘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.’
Source: Daily Mail
Christianity and Conservatism are suddenly the new ways to be rebellious in our fetid swamp of a culture.
The godless leftists demand conformity and are willing to violate the First Amendment to ensure it.
There are culture war issues that really do matter and this was a huge win for Christians in America.
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