A Christian professor who refused to call a transgender student by their correct pronouns has been told he could sue his college for violating his freedom of expression and religion.
Nicholas Meriwether, from Ohio, was given a written warning from officials at Shawnee State University and told he could be suspended without pay for violating the university’s anti-discrimination rules.
However, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals has now written to the university, claiming Meriwether’s First Amendment rights are being compromised if he’s forced to address students with pronouns they’ve chosen.
Circuit Judge Amul Thapar, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump, said the issue of whether a person’s sex can be changed is ‘hotly contested’, meaning Meriwether is entitled to express his own view on the matter.
‘If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,’ Thapar wrote for a three-judge panel, the MailOnline reports.
‘A university president could require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of God, or a Soviet to address his students as comrades. That cannot be.’
Thapar went on to note that the student, referred to as Jane Doe in the hearing, received a high grade for the philosophy class, and therefore there was no proof Meriwether’s decision to misgender her affected his ability to teach her.
Now, Meriwether is free to sue the college, where he has worked since 1996, for damages, should he choose to do so.
The lawsuit was initially filed in November 2019, when a group of conservative lawyers called the Alliance Defending Freedom decided to take on his case.
‘In January 2018, a male student demanded that Dr Meriwether address him as a woman because he identified as such and threatened to have Dr. Meriwether fired if he declined,’ read the lawsuit, as per NBC News.
‘To accede to these demands would have required Dr Meriwether to communicate views regarding gender identity that he does not hold, that he does not wish to communicate, and that would contradict (and force him to violate) his sincerely held Christian beliefs,’ they wrote.
The suit argued that Meriwether had been forced to compromise his core belief system when the university told him he must call students by their preferred pronouns.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Mindline Trans+ on 0300 330 5468. The line is open 8pm–midnight Mondays and Fridays and is run by trans volunteers.
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