Professor won’t be required to use transgender pronouns in lawsuit settlement; university to pay $400,000

Professor won’t be required to use transgender pronouns in lawsuit settlement; university to pay $400,000
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“A professor who sued an Ohio university over punishment for refusing to use a student’s pronouns will receive a six-figure settlement from the school,” reports the Ohio Capital Journal. The professor will receive $400,000 from the university, but he will likely keep only $5,000 of that, while his lawyers will get $395,000 of it. (Defendants often pay more for the plaintiff’s lawyers’ bill, than to compensate the plaintiff. That’s how civil-rights litigation works — in one employment discrimination lawsuit, a plaintiff collected $1, while her lawyer ended up getting $41,582.13 in attorneys fees, paid by the defendant.)

An appeals court ruled in 2001 he could sue Shawnee State University and its officials under the First Amendment. (Disclosure: Liberty Unyielding’s Hans Bader filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the professor with the appeals court, which is found at this link. As a mere amicus, Bader will not receive any money from the settlement.).

The Capital Journal reports:

Shawnee State University said four years of litigation resulted in an “economic decision” to settle with philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether…Meriwether was disciplined after a student filed a complaint saying the professor was asked to use the pronouns identified by the transgender student, but refused to do so because of his religious views.

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The professor, who has taught classes in philosophy and religion, including History of Christian Thought, said in court documents he believes “sex is fixed in each person from the moment of conception and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual’s feelings or desires.”

He argued he attempted to come to a compromise with the student and the university by offering to use the student’s first or last name, but was resolute that he would not refer to the student by the pronouns she told him to use.

The university, which is a public institution with an undergraduate population of more than 3,000, said they had informed faculty at the beginning of the school year that the school’s policy said students should be referred to by their preferred pronouns, and would discipline professors who failed to comply…In March 2021, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision, and ruled Meriwether had the right to sue Shawnee State on claims of First Amendment violations.

Circuit Judge Amul Thapar wrote in the opinion from the court of appeals that the university “punished a professor for his speech on a hotly contested issue,” and did so “despite the constitutional protections afforded by the First Amendment.”

In the settlement, the university … agrees that Meriwether will not be required to “address or refer to any person, including students identifying as transgender, using pronouns or titles corresponding to their gender identity and that conflict with their biological sex.”

Shawnee State also agreed to remove a written warning from Meriwether’s file regarding the pronoun usage.

Meriwether will receive $395,000 in attorneys fees, along with punitive damages of $5,000 from the university….“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.

Meriwether was represented by attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom in Scottsdale, Arizona.

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.

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