Lawyers for Shawnee State University in Ohio argued in a court filing last week that the First Amendment doesn't protect a professor at the college who refused to address a transgender student as a female, The Associated Press reported.
In fact, attorneys from the small, public school argued that a federal court should dismiss the professor's lawsuit against the college, the AP said, which was filed late last year after the university rebuked him for misgendering the student. The lawyers added that Nicholas Meriwether's job responsibilities require him to use students' desired gender pronouns, the outlet said.
The professor's lawsuit alleges Shawnee State officials violated his rights by compelling him to speak in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs as a Christian, the AP reported.
Meriwether received a written warning for violating the school's nondiscrimination policy and challenged his reprimand — without success — in a grievance process, the outlet said. The professor argued that he didn't discriminate and treated the student like "other biologically male students," the AP added.
Shawnee State UniversityImage source: YouTube screenshot
Meriwether — a religion and philosophy professor — has taught at Shawnee State since 1996 and said he always refers to all his students using "sir," "ma'am," "mister" or "miss" to build an atmosphere of seriousness and mutual respect, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, citing the lawsuit.
In January 2018, the transgender student approached Meriwether after class and requested to be addressed as a female, the lawsuit said.
Meriwether responded by saying he wasn't sure he could comply with the student's demand and wasn't certain students can dictate how professors must refer to them, the lawsuit noted.
'Then I guess this means I can call you a c**t'
At this point, the student became belligerent, the lawsuit noted, "circling around Dr. Meriwether and getting in his face in a threatening fashion" before telling the professor, "Then I guess this means I can call you a c**t."
The student also promised to have Meriwether fired if the student's demands weren't met, the lawsuit added.
Meriwether addressed his concerns about the student's behavior with school officials, but the lawsuit added that the student filed a complaint against Meriwether and threatened to contact a lawyer if the situation wasn't resolved to the student's satisfaction.
'Tolerance is a two-way street'
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Meriwether, and senior counsel Travis Barham said in a news release that "tolerance is a two-way street. Universities are meant to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought, but apparently, Shawnee State has ignored that foundational truth."
The school's provost, Jeffrey Bauer, argued against Meriwether.
"Do these freedoms supersede the rights of an individual, a student in this case, against discrimination by a public employee at a state-supported institution?" he asked, according to the Enquirer. "When provided with options to avoid discrimination and opposition to his religious beliefs, Dr. Meriwether chose to continue his disparate treatment of the student."
But Meriwether said it was the school that refused other options he proposed, the paper said, including putting a disclaimer on his syllabus that he was identifying people by their chosen pronouns as "under compulsion."
(H/T: Campus Reform)