Trump-appointed circuit judge Amul Thapar argued Professor Nicholas Meriwether was punished for communicating a ‘hotly contested’ matter of public concern.
According to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University, argued a new rule by the university requiring faculty to refer to students by their preferred pronouns did not reflect “biological reality” and contradicted his devout Christian beliefs.
A student in Meriwether’s class, referred to as ‘Doe’, complained to university officials that Meriweather’s repeated refusal to use the student’s feminine pronouns created a ‘hostile enivornment’ in violation of the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
In response, the university gave Meriwether a written warning about his conduct, in which they explained Meriwether could be suspended without pay or fired for continuing to violate the policy.
The Shawnee State faculty union proceeded to file a grievance on Meriwether’s behalf. While officials at the school agreed that Meriwether’s conduct did not create a hostile environment, they claimed the case was related to “differential treatment” and denied the grievance.
Out of options, Meriwether pushed back with a lawsuit, alleging that he cannot address “a high profile issue of public concern that has significant philosophical implications” and that the warning letter will make it “difficult, if not impossible,” for Meriwether to obtain a position at another institution once he retires from Shawnee State.