“What’s the big deal? It’s just a pronoun.”
He reacted when Professor Nicholas Meriwether first objected to his university’s policy requiring instructors to refer to students by their biological sex.
Words are essential, says Meriwether, a philosopher who teaches philosophy, theology, and ethics. Bad ideas have victims as well. His latest court victory allows him to continue teaching pupils how to distinguish between concepts that support human flourishing and those that do not.
Meriwether has taught at Shawnee State University for almost two decades. “Yes, sir,” he said in class in January 2018.
After class, the student asked to be addressed as a lady, using feminine pronouns. Afraid that Meriwether would disagree right away, the pupil threatened to sue.
Meriwether simply supplied the student’s chosen first or last name with no pronouns. Officials at the institution finally rejected any compromise allowing him to talk freely.
Unbelievably, Meriwether finished the class and got a B. According to his personnel file, no further action would be taken unless he expressed the university’s ideological agenda.
According to Meriwether, the university’s policy and disciplinary proceedings against him violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and religion. This isn’t only about a pronoun, but about its meaning. It’s about a belief.
Others don’t get it, but he did. Using specific phrases would be forced by ideology.
It would demand complete obedience until all opposition was silenced.
Since then, extreme gender identity ideology has taken hold in universities, public schools, Big Tech, companies, and the mainstream media.
However, Meriwether’s example shows that individuals impacted by policies may win by standing up. He won his appeal after the district court denied his claims.
The court stated that American colleges have always been beacons of intellectual variety and academic independence. They have prided themselves on becoming discussion and debate venues for provocative views. They have avoided taking sides to foster debate. But Shawnee State reprimanded a professor for making a controversial statement. “… notwithstanding the First Amendment’s constitutional guarantees.” A university would have scary power if teachers were not protected from free speech when teaching to coerce ideological conformity. Nobody should have to defend the war, criticize the Freedom Riders, deny God’s existence, or describe his pupils as “comrades” because that isn’t acceptable.”
The university decided that it could not compel Meriwether to utter messages he disagreed with and paid $400,000 in damages and attorney expenses due to that ruling.
Let’s hope Meriwether’s triumph acts as a wake-up message to colleges and universities around the country. Disagreement with speech is best addressed by more speech, not less.