A Christian professor at Shawnee State University told a biological male student who identified as a female that he would not use the student’s preferred pronouns due to his religious beliefs.
The student, according to Alliance Defending Freedom “became aggressive, circling around him, getting in his face in a threatening fashion, while telling him, ‘Then I guess this means I can call you a c**t.’” The student then threatened the professor’s job and went on to file a formal complaint with university officials.
The Federalist’s Chad Felix Greene reported that the professor, Nicholas Meriwether, sued with the help of ADF after SSU sided with the student and agreed the professor had created a “hostile” environment in violation of the school’s anti-discrimination policy.
“Shawnee State officials have also ignored the Constitution, which guarantees the right of all Americans to speak freely,” Meriwether’s lawsuit said. The court dismissed his suit, claiming he didn’t prove he had been discriminated against for his religious beliefs.
“Plaintiff’s refusal to address a student in class in accordance with the student’s gender identity does not implicate broader societal concerns and the free speech clause of the First Amendment under the circumstances of this case,” the court ruled.
Further, the court said Meriwether hadn’t been forced to use speech with which he disagreed because he had been given the option to remove all gendered language from the classroom.
Meriwether had attempted to compromise. He said he called his students by either “Mr.” or “Ms.” and their last name. He offered to call the transgender student simply by their last name. The court said this was still discrimination and suggested Meriwether call all students by their last name. Meriwether refused, so the court concluded he had not been forced to express a view with which he disagreed and claimed pronouns and titles are not the same as expressing a belief. More from Greene:
The court rejected the professor’s religious objections, saying the reasonable-person standard would not consider using preferred pronouns as unreasonable and that the anti-discrimination policy is “neutral” and therefore not specifically affecting any religious group or belief. Most shockingly, the court upheld the university’s position that it could not accommodate the professor due to his religious objection, as it would then be required to make similar accommodations for racist or sexist views as well.
Strangely, the court determined Meriwether faced no form of discrimination for his religious beliefs after his superior openly laughed at his concerns during their meeting and compared his views to those of racists. Meriwether also could not prove other faculty who opposed gender identity accommodations had been treated differently than he had been. Essentially, because the university would have disciplined all faculty refusing to use preferred pronouns equally, the court decided no discrimination was present.
Greene argued that the court’s reasoning was unreasonable when they “assumed approving of a false gender identity to be a common and reasonable standard of conduct for public employees.” He said this was “an imposed view rather than an objective observation of current social standards.”