Speech rights for me but not for she, because there'll be no wedding pizzas in that classroom

The 6th Circuit rules that Shawnee State University violated a professor’s free speech and free expression rights by punishing him for refusing to use a trans student’s preferred pronouns. More lawfare ahead.

Apparently a professor’s socratic method (and his religious beliefs) trumps gender expression and public accommodation keeps bigotry in a bathroom closet. Poor Socrates didn’t account for the priggishness of minor theocrats.

It was inevitable that Trump judges would carve a “misgendering students” exception into Garcetti. The real question is: where’s the line? The logic of today’s opinion would seem to imperil all manner of non-discrimination rules at public schools, not just pronoun policies.

Can a white professor who repeatedly uses the n-word in class while expressing his views that Black people are intellectually inferior be punished under the 6th Circuit logic? I’d think not—racial equality is also “a hotly contested matter of public concern”! Really, what isn’t?

A better balance of interests here might be: a professor can express their views, but cannot impose those views on students in a degrading way.
But the 6th Circuit says: No, rejecting a trans student’s identity is merely an expression of opinion on a “matter of public concern”!

Anyway, it certainly seems like public school policies against hostile environments and racial harassment are on thin ice under the 6th Circuit’s reasoning, and since Thapar and Larsen are two of the more moderate Trump judges, it’s chilling to consider what’s coming next.

The yearslong battle started after Nicholas Meriwether refused to address a transgender student at Shawnee State University using “she/her” pronouns.

Shawnee State University officials have punished a philosophy professor, Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns (“Miss,” “she,” etc.) Although Dr. Meriwether offered to use the student’s first or last name instead, neither the student nor the university was willing to accept that compromise, choosing instead to force the professor to speak and act contrary to his own Christian convictions.

Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University, Ohio, refused to refer to a trans student by her chosen pronouns, reports The Washington Times.

Student Alena Bruening filed a complaint against the Shawnee State University academic earlier this year after he objected to calling her “miss” or “she.”

He instead offered to refer to Bruening by her first name.


In each instance Meriwether chose passive-aggressively to single out the student as a person “other” than the others in the class, for example there could be Mr. or Miss, but no honorific for Bruening, which if he used her first name, others would get to be be referred to with their binary  honorific.

  • March 26, 2021