After a four-year court battle, Shawnee State professor Nicholas Meriwether will receive a clean disciplinary record plus $400,000 in settlement of the lawsuit he brought against the university for disciplining him for refusing to use the “preferred pronouns” of his students that did not match their biological sex.
Prof. Meriwether teaches philosophy at Shawnee State, and by 2018 had been a fixture at the Ohio school for years. He is also a devout Christian. And when gender ideology reared its head at the school, which is a public university, Meriwether got caught in its tentacles.
A male student of his demanded to be called by feminine terms, which contradicted Meriwether’s biblical beliefs about male and female, not to mention his understanding of basic biology. The professor offered a compromise, which was to call the student by his last name, but the student refused, and the university opened an investigation of Meriwether that resulted in a disciplinary letter in his file. That letter would have impaired future hopes of a promotion, and even affect his future employment prospects.
That’s when Meriwether asked Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for help. ADF sued the university on his behalf, alleging the government-run school violated Meriwether’s First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion.
A federal district court dismissed his case, but on appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel in 2021 unanimously reversed the lower court’s dismissal, ruling that Meriwether had stated a valid claim of constitutional misconduct by the university. The appellate court then remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings.
Instead of going to trial, however, the parties have now announced a settlement in Meriwether’s favor that has resulted in the payment mentioned above, the letter of reprimand being removed from his personnel file, and the case getting dismissed.
It is interesting to note that the same-sex marriage was sold to us under the promise it would never impact any of us. “How will my same-sex marriage ever impact your heterosexual marriage?” asked Massachusetts Senator Barney Frank at the height of the battle to radically redefine marriage. But now that same movement is trying to control and dictate the very words we use. Yes, that slope was indeed more slippery than anyone ever anticipated. Prof. Meriwether was right to fight back.
ADF lawyers celebrated this important victory.
“Public universities should welcome intellectual and ideological diversity, where all students and professors can engage in meaningful discussions without compromising their core beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, in a press release.
“Dr. Meriwether rightly defended his freedom to speak and stay silent, and not conform to the university’s demand for uniformity of thought. We commend the university for ultimately agreeing to do the right thing, in keeping with its reason for existence as a marketplace of ideas.”
ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham added:
“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. 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.”
Christians like Prof. Meriwether adhere to the biblical truth found in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, verse 27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Forcing Christians to use “preferred pronouns” at odds with the male or female nature of someone God created is tantamount to telling God that He doesn’t know what He’s doing. That His creation is, in effect, defective. Ultimately, that He is not good.
And that, sadly, is an attack on God’s very nature, and Meriwether and other Christians are wise to resist being compelled to join in such foolishness. Most importantly, when a government institution is the entity compelling Christians to speak contrary to what their faith tells them, the First Amendment is there to prevent that line from being crossed.
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