A federal appeals court ruled Friday that an Ohio professor can sue Shawnee State University for violating his First Amendment right by reprimanding him for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronoun.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined the school’s new rule that forced Nicholas Meriwether to address students by their preferred pronouns infringed on Meriwether’s rights of free speech and free exercise of religion, The New York Post reported.
This decision has reversed the Cincinnati district court’s ruling from February 2020 dismissing Meriwether’s lawsuit against university officials.
The message from the 6th Circuit: You must respect the First Amendment rights of all professors, and that means you cannot force them to say things they do not believe. https://t.co/Y4Wsy9iJbM
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@AllianceDefends) March 29, 2021
Shawnee State had issued a written warning to Meriwether who has been teaching philosophy there since 1996, explaining he could be suspended without pay or have his contract terminated for continuing violation of the policy, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Trans Woman Tears Into ‘Transphobic’ TSA In Viral Video Over Scanner Sensing ‘Anomaly Between My Legs That Sets Off The Alarm’)
“If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,” Thapar wrote in the ruling. “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,” the judge added.