A Shawnee State University professor who refused to use the preferred pronouns of a biologically male student in 2018 won $400,000 from the school in a legal settlement last week, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, his legal representative.
Philosophy Professor Nicholas Meriwether is also now permitted to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when referring to or addressing students as part of the agreement. The university is also rescinding a warning it issued to him more than three years ago.
The arrangement follows a lawsuit from Meriwether filed in November 2018, in which he alleged that the school violated his religious freedom and First Amendment rights when they punished him for refusing to use the requested pronouns.
The 6th District U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in March 2021 that the university, which is in Portsmouth. Ohio, across the Ohio River from Kentucky, did indeed violate Meriwether's free speech rights, even after he offered to use any name the student requested instead of titles and pronouns.
''This case forced us to defend what used to be a common belief — that nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep their job,'' said ADF senior counsel Travis Barham.
''Dr. Meriwether went out of his way to accommodate his students and treat them all with dignity and respect, yet his university punished him because he wouldn't endorse an ideology that he believes is false.
''We're pleased to see the university recognize that the First Amendment guarantees Dr. Meriwether — and every other American — the right to speak and act in a manner consistent with one's faith and convictions.''
The university maintains its official statement that it denies ''anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr. Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion,'' the Daily Caller reported.
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