Ruling in Shawnee State “Preferred Pronouns” Case: Read It For Yourself
The Sixth Circuit ruled 3-0 that the Shawnee State “Preferred Pronouns” case is covered by the First Amendment and a professor cannot be compelled to use a students preferred pronouns.
A public university cannot compel the “academic speech” of its professors, the Sixth Circuit ruled Friday in a decision that reinstated First Amendment claims brought by a Christian professor who ran afoul of his employer’s gender identity policy.
Nicholas Meriwether, an evangelical Christian who has taught at Shawnee State University since 1996, was disciplined in 2018 when he refused to call a transgender student by her preferred pronouns. Meriwether, who taught the anonymous student in a political philosophy class, typically uses the Socratic method of teaching in which “Mr.” and “Ms.” are used to call on students.
Following the incident, the student confronted Meriwether and demanded she be called by her preferred pronouns, at which point the professor informed her that his religious beliefs would not allow it. The student promised to get Meriwether fired, and after an investigation, the professor was given a written warning based on the school’s finding that he had created a hostile environment for the student.
Meriwether was concerned further violations of the policy could get him fired, so he filed a First Amendment suit in federal court. The case was referred to a magistrate judge after the student and a group called Sexuality and Gender Acceptance intervened, and the suit was ultimately dismissed.
The professor appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which heard arguments last November.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court held in the 2006 case Garcetti v. Ceballos that comments made by government employees in the course of their normal duties are not protected by the First Amendment, the panel in Meriwether’s case declined to apply that holding to professors.
“Simply put,” U.S. Circuit Judge Amul Thapar wrote, “professors at public universities retain First Amendment protections at least when engaged in core academic functions, such as teaching and scholarship.”
Read it for yourself here: