‘We are losing the freedom to disagree’: the Christian university professor explains why he had to sue
An Ohio professor of philosophy has warned that the United States is at risk of eroding academic freedoms and freedom of thought after the college where he taught issued a written warning when he refused to use a transgender student’s requested pronouns .
Professor Nicholas Meriwether was allowed to sue Shawnee State University on Friday over the 2016 warning.
The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Meriwether’s right to freedom of expression and religion had been violated by the university, which penalized him for opposing rules forcing him to address students based on their choice.
Meriwether said on Thursday night that America was at a crossroads.
Professor Nicholas Meriwether appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show Thursday night
Asked by Tucker Carlson why he wanted to sue the college, Meriwether replied, “If I hadn’t I would have been fired, I would have been fired.”
But, he added, his main reason was to send a message.
“I think we should come up against it,” he said.
‘I really think we’re losing our academic freedom, we’re losing our freedom to disagree, and unless and until people argue against it, I think it’s only going to get worse, much much faster.’
Meriwether was reprimanded in 2016 after a transgender student complained that he used ‘sir’ instead of ‘madam’ when responding to her in class, repeatedly treating her like any other biologically male person – despite her desire to become a woman addressed.
The academic, who said that the rules did not reflect “ biological reality ” and contradicted his devout Christian beliefs, received a written warning about his conduct and said he could be suspended or fired without payment for violating the non- discrimination policy.
Meriwether’s (photo) declined to address a transgender student as ‘madam’ instead of ‘sir’
Trump-appointed Circuit Judge Amul Thapar wrote to a panel of three judges, saying Meriwether was simply communicating on a “ hotly contested ” issue of public concern, whether a person’s gender could be changed.
He also said that Portsmouth-based Shawnee State offered no evidence that Meriwether’s decision not to use feminine pronouns affected his job, hindered school activities, or denied educational benefits to the student, known as Jane Doe, who received a high degree.
“If professors were not protected from freedom of speech while teaching, a university would wield alarming power to enforce ideological conformity,” Thapar wrote.
A university president might require a pacifist to declare war righteous, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer who denies the existence of God, or a Soviet who addresses his students as “ comrades. ” , ” he added. ‘That is not possible.’
He sent the lawsuit back to a Cincinnati judge, who dismissed it in February 2020. Several interest groups submitted a letter in which they supported both parties.
The decision paves the way for Meriwether, who had taught at Shawnee State University since 1996, to appeal damages.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian conservative law firm based in Arizona specializing in matters related to “ religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family, ” filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Meriwether in November 2019.
“In January 2018, a male college student demanded that Dr. Meriwether address him as a woman for identifying himself as such and threatened that Dr. Meriwether would be fired if he refused,” read the lawsuit, the text of which was obtained by NBC News . .
“To meet these demands, Dr. Meriwether would have needed to express views on gender identity that he doesn’t have, that he doesn’t want to communicate, and that contradict (and compel him to violate) his heartfelt Christian beliefs.”
Trump-appointed Circuit Judge Amul Thapar said Meriwether was simply communicating on a ‘hotly contested’ issue of public concern about gender identity
The lawsuit alleged that the university “punished” Meriwether for “expressing views different from its own orthodoxy and for refusing to express its imposed ideological message.”
“Defendants, who continue their role as self-proclaimed grammar police, threaten to punish him again if he continues to voice his opinion,” the lawsuit read.
“ According to their policy, all professors must refer to each student – both in and out of the classroom – using the pronouns that the student claims reflect their gender identity. ”
Meriwether argued in its complaint that “the number of potential gender identities is infinite” and that there are currently “over a hundred different options available.”
John Bursch, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, praised the decision.
“No one should be forced to contradict his core beliefs just to keep his job,” he said.
Meriwether has taught at Shawnee State University since 1996 (photo)