A federal appeals court has sided with a Christian college professor who refused to comply with school orders to his transgender students’ preferred pronouns.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined Shawnee State University in Ohio violated Professor Nicholas Meriwether’s rights to free speech and free exercise of religion when they disciplined him for referring to a biologically male student as “Mr.” instead of “Ms.” as the student had requested.
Meriwether then sued the university, claiming their policy ordering faculty to use students’ preferred pronouns violated his religious belief that biology, not identity, determines whether a student is a Mr. or a Ms.
Trump-appointed Judge Amul Thapar wrote in his 32-page decision that the philosophy professor’s First Amendment rights had indeed been clearly violated.
“The First Amendment interests are especially strong here because Meriwether’s speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical beliefs,” the circuit judge wrote.
“If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity,” Thapar, who the New York Post notes was in the running to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, also wrote.
The ruling will now enable Meriwether to sue for damages.
“Nobody should be forced to contradict their core beliefs just to keep their job,” said Meriwether’s attorney John Bursch of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
This is a key ruling on an issue that has been in the spotlight for some time as transgender ideology grows more prevalent and free speech on college campuses has become a prime casualty of its doctrine.
In 2016, clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson caused international controversy when he refused to refer to his students at the University of Toronto by their preferred pronouns.
Peterson rocketed to fame after a video he filmed opposing a Canadian bill which critics said could lead to penalization for incorrect pronoun use.
This is an important victory for both religious liberty and free speech on campus alike.
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