A federal judge last week ruled that a Christian professor was properly disciplined by an Ohio university when he refused to use the preferred pronouns of a biological male student who identifies as female.
Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, filed suit in 2018 after the university placed a written warning in his personnel file for not calling a biological male student “Miss” and “she” – the student’s preferred title and pronoun.
“His speech – the manner by which he addressed a transgender student – was not protected under the First Amendment,” U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott wrote in a three-page opinion, accepting the recommendation of a magistrate to dismiss the case.
Meriwether, who is a professing evangelical Christian, argued in his initial complaint that calling a biological male “Miss” would violate his “sincerely held religious beliefs” that “God created human beings as either male or female” and that “gender is fixed.”
Meriwether often uses titles such as “Mr.” and “Miss” and phrases like “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” in class, believing it benefits dialogue and shows respect.
He was willing to use the student’s first or last name, but the student opposed this compromise and filed a complaint with the university.
The controversy began in January 2018 when Meriwether addressed the student as “sir” during class, according to the magistrate’s report. The student approached Meriwether after class and asked that he use feminine titles and pronouns in the future. When Meriwether responded that he wasn’t sure he could follow the request, the student became threatening and said, “Then I guess this means I can call you a c--t,” the magistrate reported.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Meriwether.
“Dr. Nicholas Meriwether remains committed to serving all students with respect, but he cannot express all messages or endorse all ideologies,” ADF attorney Travis Barham said. “When the university tried to force him to do this and then punished him for exercising his rights, it violated the First Amendment.”
Dlott was nominated by President Clinton.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.