Professor who refused to use transgender student's pronouns wins £306,000 payout

Nicholas Meriwether argued that Shawnee State University in Ohio violated his constitutional rights

Published

A professor who refused to use transgender pronouns towards a student has been paid £306,000 in damages.

Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, US, launched the legal battle after being rebuked for declining to call a transgender student by pronouns.

The professor argued that the university had violated his constitutional rights as well as attempting to convince him to go against his Christian beliefs.

But the university said that the rebuke was because he was “expressing views that differ from [the university's] own orthodoxy”.

Nicholas Meriwether
Nicholas Meriwether

Dr Meriwether added that he treated the transgender student as he would any "other biologically male student".

He said: “The student approached me after class and said that he wanted to be referred to as a female, and I tried to find an accommodation with the student.

“I was willing to use his proper name, female proper name, and initially the administration was willing to go along with that, but then the administration changed course and demanded that I defer to the ideology, that I refer to the student as a female and I simply could not do that,” he told Fox News.

And after a three-year legal battle, an appeals court has now ruled that the incident did violate Dr Meriwether’s right to free speech.

The court told the university to pay $400,000 (around £306,000) in damages and legal fees, which they have agreed to do.

Shawnee State University
Shawnee State University

In a statement, the university said: “Though we have decided to settle, we adamantly deny that anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion.

"We continue to stand behind a student’s right to a discrimination-free learning environment as well as the rights of faculty, visitors, students and employees to freely express their ideas and beliefs.

"Over the course of this lawsuit, it became clear that the case was being used to advance divisive social and political agendas at a cost to the university and its students.

"That cost is better spent on fulfilling Shawnee State’s mission of service to our students, families and community."

Campaign group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has backed the decision.

Travis Barnham, senior counsel at ADF, said: 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.

“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."