ADF Says College’s Settlement with Professor a ‘Victory for Free Speech’

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is celebrating a court victory for one of its clients, a professor who was punished by his employer for refusing to use the preferred gender pronouns of a student.

“Dr. Meriwether’s victory is a free speech victory for professors all across the country,” Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom at ADF told The Ohio Star Wednesday. “The court rightly decided that his First Amendment rights were likely violated and vindicated these rights for all professors. No one should be forced to say something they believe is untrue and we are grateful the court has recognized that.”

Dr. Nick Meriwether is a professor of philosophy at Shawnee State University.

In 2016, the school implemented rules compelling professors to use the preferred gender pronouns of their students.

In 2018, a situation arose in which a student demanded that Meriwether use specific gender pronouns. Meriwether refused, saying it violated his conscience.

In response, the school sent him a letter ordering him to use the male student’s female pronouns, or risk being fired or suspended. Meriwether sued, and after a lengthy legal battle that included a judgment in favor of the school in a district court, won on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in March 2021 that the university violated [Dr. Nick] Meriwether’s free speech rights when it punished him because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns,” the ADF said in an announcement last week. “Meriwether had offered to use any name the student requested instead of titles and pronouns, but the university rejected that compromise, instead forcing the professor to speak contrary to his religious convictions and philosophical beliefs.”

The school will pay the philosophy professor $400,000 in restitution.

Despite settling the case with the professor, the school still denies any wrongdoing.

“Though we have decided to settle, we adamantly deny that anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr. Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion,” it said in a statement. “We continue to stand behind a student’s right to a discrimination-free learning environment as well as the rights of faculty, visitors, students and employees to freely express their ideas and beliefs.”

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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Nicholas Meriwether” by ADF



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