Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Public Ed. Loses In Religious Freedom Case

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 A public university in Ohio will pay $400,000 to a philosophy professor who refused to use a student's "preferred pronouns."

The university did what every public education institution does if the radical left, or anti-Christian voices threaten them.

They cave to the left. And threaten or punish the accused.

However, a three-judge panel did not cave. 

If you care about freedom---particularly religious freedom---this is encouraging.

Be informed, not misled.

The incident.

During a political philosophy class in January 2018, Shawnee State University professor Nick Meriwether responded to a biological male student's question by saying "yes, sir." When the class ended, the student confronted Meriwether. The student claimed to be transgender and was to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, which now represents Meriwether, "When Meriwether did not instantly agree, the student became belligerent and promised to get Meriwether fired."  

The student immediately filed a complaint with the university, which triggered a formal investigation into the incident. 

Meriwether said the pronouns would force him to speak and "act contrary to his own Christian convictions and philosophical beliefs."

He also offered to address the student by the individual's first or last name, but the student insisted the professor use the preferred pronouns.

In the blink of  an eye, Shawnee State University did what taxpayer-funded, government-run schools always do: They rejected Meriwether's offer to call the student by his legal name, claiming that Professor Meriwether had "effectively created a hostile environment."

The university slapped the professor with a written warning in his personal file and threatened "further corrective actions" unless he used the student's pronouns.

The professor's response--and the result.



The Christian professor did not ride off into the sunset but rather filed a lawsuit claiming that the school violated his First Amendment rights and his 14th Amendment right to due process.

The suit was dismissed in February 2020 but revived by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2021.

A three-judge panel wrote in their unanimous opinion: "[Shawnee State University] punished a professor for his speech on a hotly contested issue. And it did so despite the constitutional protections afforded by the First Amendment. The district court dismissed the professor's free-speech and free exercise claims. We see things differently and reverse."

The "institution of higher learning" awoke from its far-left slumber and offered to pay the professor $400,000 in damages and attorney's fees to settle the lawsuit.

And, as part of the settlement, the university has agreed that "Meriwether has the right to choose when to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when addressing students." 

The significant part of this settlement is that Professor Meriwether will never again be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests or demands pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex.

ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham 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. Professor 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."

Barham said, "We're pleased to see the university recognize that the First Amendment guarantees Dr. Meriwether – and every other American – the right to speak and act in a manner consistent with one's faith and convictions," 

The 6th Circuit explained that if “professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity. A university president could require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of God, or a Soviet √©migr√© to address his students as ‘comrades.’ That cannot be.”

I suspect in the radical left world, a university could similarly force a Jewish professor to address a student as “My Fuhrer.”

Takeaway

We've lost our minds. 

David Barton and his Wall Builders organization have published an excellent paper about what Thomas Jefferson meant when he told the Danbury Baptists there was a "wall of separation" between the church and the state. I would encourage you to read it.

Barton notes that "Jefferson believed that the government was to be powerless to interfere with religious expressions for a very simple reason: he had long witnessed the unhealthy tendency of government to encroach upon the free exercise of religion."

Jefferson explained it to Noah Webster like this:

It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors... and which experience has nevertheless proved they [the government] will be constantly encroaching on if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious [effective] against wrong and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion.

Barton summarizes his paper by saying: "The 'separation' phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders, and even Jefferson's explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. 'Separation of church and state' currently means almost exactly the opposite of  what it originally meant."

In fact, Jefferson felt so strongly about these matters that he said, "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Engaged. Be Vigilant. Be Prayerful.