A Shawnee State University professor who refused to use the preferred pronouns of a biologically male student won $400,000 from the university.
Philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether settled with the university after filing a lawsuit in November 2018 alleging that the school violated his religious freedom and First Amendment rights, according to a press release from the professor’s legal representative, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF filed a voluntary dismissal of the case on April 14 in light of the settlement agreement.
Meriwether can choose when to use or avoid titles and pronouns when addressing students, per the university’s settlement.
Victory: Shawnee State agrees professors can’t be forced to speak contrary to their beliefs
ADF attorneys representing Dr. Nicholas Meriwether favorably settle First Amendment case with universityhttps://t.co/eEhxFqnMOF
— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanTAnd) April 14, 2022
Meriweather, who taught at the school since 1996, always referred to his students using “sir,” “ma’am,” “mister,” or “miss,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. A biological male student approached the professor after class in Jan. 2018 requesting that he use female pronouns and titles to address the male student.
The professor claims that the student threatened him and compared his refusal to use female pronouns to someone calling the professor a “c***.” (RELATED: All-Girls School Asks Students To Make Pronoun Buttons During ‘Cultural Festival’)
After the student filed a complaint with the university, Meriwether filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court against the school’s trustees and other school officials for allegedly attempting to force his speech.
ADF claims that Meriwether offered to use “any name the student requested instead of titles and pronouns.” However, the university rejected the compromise, “instead forcing the professor to speak contrary to his religious convictions and philosophical beliefs.”
ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham said he believes this is a victory for free speech in America.
“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,” Barham said. “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.”
A Shawnee State University spokeswoman directed the Daily Caller to its official statement, which claims that the university “adamantly den[ies] that anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr. Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion.”