Dr. Nicolas Meriwether, a philosophy professor, was punished by Shawnee State University because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and feminine pronouns. Dr. Meriwether offered to use the student’s first or last name, but Shawnee State University and the student demanded the professor speak and act contrary to the truth, his philosophical convictions, and his Christian convictions. The school formally charged him with creating a hostile work environment and placed a written warning in his personnel file and threatened “further corrective actions” unless he articulated the university’s ideological message. However, Freedom—of speech and religious exercise—includes the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs. Meriwether sued, explaining that the school’s insistence on forcing him to use a pronoun contrary to a student’s biological sex was forced speech contrary to his beliefs and academic freedom, protected by the First Amendment.
On November 19, 2020, ADF attorney John Bursch argued the case on behalf of Dr. Meriweather before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A decision is expected in late winter or early spring.
Our Role in this Case
The Independence Law Center represented amici curiae parties, numerous academics in philosophy, theology, law, political science, and medicine, by filing an amici brief on their behalf supporting Dr. Meriwether. Our brief explains some of the problems with gender identity ideology and argues that professors have the right to free speech on issues of public importance such as the nature of sex, and that Public universities shouldn’t require teachers to endorse a belief with which they disagree. Alliance Defending Freedom represented Dr. Meriwether.