A college philosophy and religion professor is suing after he says he was “punished” by his school for refusing to call a transgender student by female pronouns, which he says would violate his “sincerely held Christian beliefs,” according to a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Ohio.
The lawsuit says Nicholas Meriwether is suing several officials from Shawnee State University in Ohio and demanding any record of punishment be wiped from his record, a statement that his rights were violated, court fees and damages.
The lawsuit says a student approached Meriwether after class when Meriwether responded to the student by saying, “Yes, sir” on Jan. 9,.
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“In January 2018, a male student demanded that Dr. Meriwether address him as a woman because he identified as such and threatened to have Dr. Meriwether fired if he declined. To accede to these demands would have required Dr. Meriwether to communicate views regarding gender identity that he does not hold, that he does not wish to communicate, and that would contradict (and force him to violate) his sincerely held Christian beliefs,” the lawsuit says
Meriwether said the student “got in his face” and was aggressive toward him when he told the student he was not sure he could call the student by feminine pronouns, according to the lawsuit.
Meriwether offered to call the student by last name, rather than by “ma’am” or “sir” as he traditionally called the students in his classes, according to the lawsuit. The student was “unsatisfied” and complained to the university, after which Meriwether was told by the “grammar police” that he had to comply with the student’s request, according to the lawsuit.
“They demand this even though the concept of gender identity is entirely subjective and fluid, even though the number of potential gender identities is infinite (with over one hundred different options currently available), and even though the number of potential pronouns has likewise multiplied in recent years — all for the purpose of lending credence to cultural ideas Dr. Meriwether does not share or wish to advance,” the lawsuit says
The lawsuit says when the professor was being spoken to about the complaint, he was told that “Christian doctrines regarding hell are harmful,” that religion “oppresses” students and that it was the mission of higher education to “liberate” them.
Meriwether also said he was eventually told he could not call only one student by their last name, as all students were to be treated equally. This was not possible, because he preferred to call students with pronouns to foster a serious learning environment.
In April, he was “formally charged” by the university for creating a “hostile environment,” according to the lawsuit, which Meriwether hopes to expunge through the courts.
“No one should be forced to speak a message they disagree with. But apparently Shawnee State University isn’t a fan of free speech. So, who is it exactly that is causing a “hostile environment” on campus? And if universities are now telling professors which pronouns to use … where does it stop?” the Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in a blog post.
The university said in a statement to NBC News that “it will become clear that we made decisions in an effort to both respect our faculty member’s deep-rooted religious beliefs and our student’s right to equal treatment in the classroom” and that the school supports “freedom of expression” and “an educational and work environment that is free from discrimination, retaliation and harassment.”