A university pays $400K to professor who refused to use a student's pronouns

A public university professor in Ohio who was disciplined four years ago for refusing to use a transgender student's pronouns is being awarded $400,000 following a lawsuit against the university.

Nick Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, sued the college in 2018 after he was disciplined for not using she/her pronouns to refer to a transgender woman, according to a news release from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal organization focusing on religious freedom and free speech cases.

In a January 2018 philosophy class, Meriwether responded to the student by using the phrase "Yes, sir." Once the class ended, the student asked Meriwether to use she/her pronouns when addressing her, but Meriwether refused to do so, according to ADF.

According to ADF, the university ruled that Meriwether should use the student's correct pronouns — which Meriwether argued spoke "contrary to his religious convictions and philosophical beliefs." The university determined that Meriwether created a "hostile environment" for the unnamed student, eventually placing a written warning in his personnel file and threatening "further corrective actions," according to ADF.

In 2018, Meriwether filed a lawsuit against Shawnee State University, which the school tried to get thrown out. But last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Meriwether, according to ADF.

The court ruled that university officials violated the professor's free speech rights when they disciplined him.