Ohio university will pay $400,000 damages to professor it punished for using wrong pronouns with transgender student
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – An Ohio university has agreed to pay one of its professors $400,000 in damages and attorneys fees after it first threatened to fire him for refusing to comply with a transgender student’s request to be addressed as female, CBN News reports.
Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, agreed to pay Dr. Nick Meriwether in settlement of a case brought against it by the latter, after the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in March 2021 that the school had violated the professor’s right to free speech.
The case arose after the school determined Meriwether had created “a hostile environment” in his classroom when he refused to address an apparently male student with feminine pronouns, CBN reports. Meriwether believes God created male and female, and these are determined by a person’s biology: to address a man by a woman’s pronouns would be a violation of his faith and conscience, he argued.
Meriwether sought a compromise with Shawnee State, offering to address students by their first or second names, rather than as ‘Mr’ or “Miss” as he had been accustomed to doing since his employment at the university began in 1996, CBN said.
However, this approach was not accepted by the school, whose “Nondiscrimination policy” defines gender identity as a “person’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.” Meriwether filed suit after being told he could be suspended without pay or fired if he refused to address students by their preferred pronouns.
Shawnee State University backed down after the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in Meriwether’s favor: not only will the payment be made to the professor, but Meriwether will also be allowed to address students however he wants. Following the agreed settlement, the case was dropped on April 14.
Representing Meriwether against the school, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer said in a statement: 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.”
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