Professor Can’t Be Punished for Pronouns

Professor Nicholas Meriwether

“A public university violated a professor’s constitutional rights by punishing him for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday. In an unanimous opinion written by Judge Amul Thapar, a Supreme Court short-lister for former President Trump, the court compared the Ohio university’s behavior to a ‘McCarthy era’ law against ‘subversive’ government employees. Philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether, a ‘devout Christian,’ sought an accommodation under which he would not have to address the student as a woman in classroom discussions, which often touched on gender identity as a cultural controversy. Shawnee State University officials belatedly ordered Meriwether to stop addressing the student only by name and instead use female pronouns. They also shot down his offer to tell students in the syllabus that he was being forced to use preferred pronouns. While the Supreme Court ruled that public employers can punish workers for speech on the job, it expressly declined to extend that holding to ‘scholarship or teaching.’ Three other appeals courts have also exempted academic speech from punishment, the 6th Circuit said. The high court’s other rulings show no doubt that professors at public universities have a ‘right to lecture’ and to be free from ‘laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. The university cannot satisfy its ‘compelling interest in stopping discrimination against transgender students’ by giving itself license to ‘discipline professors, students, and staff any time their speech might cause offense,’ the opinion said. The judges also scolded university officials for their alleged ‘religious hostility’ toward the professor when he raised concerns about the gender-identity policy.”

“Professor Can’t Be Punished,” Just the News, Mar. 26, 2021