An Ohio college professor who resisted his school’s orders to go along
with transgender students’ preferred pronouns has won his First Amendment
case before a federal appeals court.
In a unanimous ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that
Shawnee State University violated Prof. Nicholas Meriwether’s rights of
free speech and free exercise of religion by punishing him for resisting
school rules that forced him to address students in the terms of their
Meriwether, a philosophy professor and devout Christian, sued Shawnee
State, claiming that its mandate to use terms that conflict with biology
infringed on his religious belief that gender is fixed from the moment of
The court’s decision, written by a judge appointed to the bench by
President Trump and issued Friday, upheld Meriwether’s argument.
“The First Amendment interests are especially strong here because
Meriwether’s speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical
beliefs,” Judge Amul Thapar wrote in a 32-page decision.
“If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university
would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,” add Thapar —
who was widely seen last year as a contender for Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg’s seat on the US Supreme Court.
Meriwether, a 25-year member of the Shawnee State faculty, was reprimanded
in 2016 after a transgender student complained that he used of “Mr.”
instead of “Ms.” when responding to the student in class. The ruling
clears the way for the professor to pursue a lawsuit seeking damages.
“Nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep
their job,” said John Bursch, a lawyer with the conservative Alliance
Defending Freedom who represented Meriwether in court.
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