By Matt Lamb
Shawnee State University will pay out $400,000 to end a legal battle with a Christian professor who refused to use a gender-confused student’s pronouns of choice.
Professor Nicholas Meriwether offered to call students by any name they chose, but the university rejected this compromise. The public Ohio university lost in court last March and as a result, has settled with Meriwether and his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for $400,000 in damages and legal fees.
“As part of the settlement, 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,” ADF said in a news release. “Significantly, the university agreed Meriwether will never be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex.”
“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,” ADF senior counsel Travis Barham stated. “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.”
“We’re pleased to see the university recognize that the First Amendment guarantees Dr. Meriwether—and every other American—the right to speak and act in a manner consistent with one’s faith and convictions,” Barham stated.
“Public universities should welcome intellectual and ideological diversity, where all students and professors can engage in meaningful discussions without compromising their core beliefs,” ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, stated in the news release.
“Dr. Meriwether rightly defended his freedom to speak and stay silent, and not conform to the university’s demand for uniformity of thought,” Langhofer said. “We commend the university for ultimately agreeing to do the right thing, in keeping with its reason for existence as a marketplace of ideas.”
The legal battle also revealed a bias against Christians on behalf of at least one university administrator.
Jennifer Pauley, the university’s chair of the humanities department and Meriwether’s boss, said “that Christians are ‘primarily motivated out of fear’ and should be ‘banned from teaching courses regarding that religion,’” according to court documents.
“In her view, even the ‘presence of religion in higher education is counterproductive,’” Judge Amul Thapar wrote in his March 2021 decision, based on evidence submitted during the lawsuit.