An Ohio professor is accusing his school of discrimination after it forced him to use a student’s preferred title of “Miss” even when he offered to instead use the student’s first or last name without using titles at all.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing Shawnee State University professor Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, argued that the school forced its professor to choose between exercising his First Amendment right to religious freedom and bowing to its “own orthodoxy.”
“Universities are meant to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought, but apparently, Shawnee State has ignored that foundational truth,” ADF senior counsel Travis Barham said.
“The university refused to consider any solutions that would respect the freedoms of everyone involved. It instead chose to impose its own orthodoxy on Dr. Meriwether under threat of further punishment if he doesn’t relinquish his rights protected by the First Amendment.”
The dilemma was just one of many that arose as schools started enforcing standards on how people addressed students and faculty who identified as transgender.
Earlier this year, a teacher argued that his public high school violated his right to religious freedom when it forced him to use preferred names and pronouns for his students. Similar to Meriwether, teacher John Kluge was unable to use just part of a student’s name when addressing them.
Meriwether even offered to use the student’s preferred name, Alena, but the student insisted he use “Miss” and “she,” The Washington Times reported.
The school reportedly said it was reviewing Meriwether’s complaint and that it valued “freedom of expression.”
“We value freedom of expression by students, faculty, staff, and visitors on our campus — and provide an educational and work environment that is free from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment,” the university’s director of communications, Elizabeth Blevins, said.
While it’s unclear how a court will handle Meriwether’s claims, the Trump administration has already taken steps to combat a Title IX interpretation that would include gender identity in its consideration of sex-based discrimination.
Most recently, a leaked memo revealed that the Trump administration considered defining gender based on biological characteristics rather than an individual’s preference.