The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that Shawnee State University violated the First Amendment rights of a professor when it punished him for refusing to call a male student by feminine pronouns, Alliance Defending Freedom reported.
Shawnee State University charged Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor, with creating a “hostile environment” for the self-identified transgender student. The university then promised “further corrective actions” if Meriwether did not bow to wokeness.
In its ruling, the 6th Circuit contrasted the historical role of the university with the model that progressives hope to spread throughout America’s educational institutions.
“Traditionally, American universities have been beacons of intellectual diversity and academic freedom,” the 6th Circuit wrote in the opinion for Meriwether v. The Trustees of Shawnee State University. “They have prided themselves on being forums where controversial ideas are discussed and debated. And they have tried not to stifle debate by picking sides.”
“But Shawnee State chose a different route: It punished a professor for his speech on a hotly contested issue,” the court continued. “And it did so despite the constitutional protections afforded by the First Amendment.”
The 6th Circuit reversed a district court’s earlier ruling, which determined that Meriwether could not find any relief under the First Amendment’s rights to free speech or the free exercise of religion.
Meriwether’s troubles began in 2018 when he said “Yes, sir,” in response to a male student’s question.
After class, the student told Meriwether that he is transgender and that he must refer to him by feminine titles and pronouns.
Meriwether would not agree to the student’s demand. The student became furious, promised to seek the professor’s expulsion, and then submitted a complaint with the university.
When the university approached Meriwether about the complaint, his Christian beliefs and opposition to compelled speech fortified him against resistance.
The 6th Circuit explained the totalitarian system that will emerge within America’s universities if the government allows them to compel speech.
If “professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,” the court 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.”