An Ohio university has settled a high-profile case with a Christian professor by saying it won't force him to use transgender pronouns and agreeing to pay $400,000 in damages and attorneys' fees.
Shawnee State University settled the case in recent days, approximately one year after the U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals sided with philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether, a devout Christian who was disciplined by the school for not using the preferred pronouns of a transgender student.
The university "has agreed that Meriwether has the right to choose when to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when referring to or addressing students," according to Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Meriwether. Further, the university agreed that Meriwether "will never be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex," ADF said.
Prior to the lawsuit, Meriwether had offered the university a compromise, proposing to use only students' last names. He also offered to use the students' preferred pronouns if he could state in the syllabus he was doing so under compulsion. The university rejected both compromises.
The controversy began when a biologically male student who identifies as female wanted to be referred to with female pronouns.
The lawsuit and settlement have proven to be costly for the university, which agreed to pay Meriwether $400,000 in damages and attorneys' fees.
Last year the Sixth Circuit ruled that the school had violated Meriwether's free-speech protections as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
"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. "Dr. Meriwether went out of his way to accommodate his students and treat them all with dignity and respect, yet his university punished him because he wouldn't endorse an ideology that he believes is false."
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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.