(Molly Bruns, Headline USA) A public university in Ohio is paying $400,000 in damages and attorney fees after attempting to force a professor to use female pronouns to describe a male student, Fox News reported.
Nick Meriwether, who has taught philosophy at Shawnee State University for several years, responded to a male student’s question by saying “Yes, sir” in a January 2018 class.
When the class ended, the student approached Meriwether and demanded to be identified as a female. Meriwether refused, as this would have violated his faith as a Christian.
Court documents state that after the Meriwethers’ refusal, the student became “belligerent” and told him that he would be fired for this. The student then filed a complaint with the university.
The subsequent investigation determined that Meriwether “effectively created a hostile environment” for refusing to use preferred pronouns. Meriwether was given an official written warning, which stated “further corrective actions” would be taking if another incident occurred.
The case was originally dismissed, but after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Meriwether’s favor in March of 2021, Meriwether’s suit was allowed to continue.
“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.”
After three years, a settlement has finally been reached: Shawnee State University will be paying $400,000, covering damages and attorney fees.
The written warning against Professor Meriwether will also be rescinded.
Tyson Langhofer, senior council for Alliance Defending Freedom, said that Meriwether “defended his freedom to speak.”
“Dr. Meriwether rightly defended his freedom to speak and stay silent, and not conform to the university’s demand for uniformity of thought,” Langhofer said.
“We commend the university for ultimately agreeing to do the right thing, in keeping with its reason for existence as a marketplace of ideas,”