Shawnee State University Professor Nick Meriwether was awarded $400,000 after successfully suing his school over the forced use of a student’s preferred pronouns.
“The student approached me after class and said that he wanted to be referred to as a female, and I tried to find an accommodation with the student. I was willing to use his proper name, female proper name, and initially, the administration was willing to go along with that, but then the administration changed course and demanded that I defer to the ideology, that I refer to the student as a female and I simply could not do that,” he said, according to America Reports.
“I believe that God created men and women, male and female. But also the idea that my speech could be coerced, could be compelled by the administration … The college classroom is to be a place of debate and discussion and freewheeling ideas. The university has no place in telling professors how they are to think with the students. It was coercion of my freedom of speech,” he continued.
The New York Post reports that the university had punished the professor in 2018 after he refused to use a student’s so-called “preferred pronouns.”
Meriwether argued that the school’s policy went in violation of the First Amendment because it was not his job to respect pronouns.
He was represented in court by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“This case forced us to defend what used to be a common belief—that nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep their job,” said ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham.
“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,” he added.
“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.
“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,” he said.