Mark Figley: Free speech not compromised


By Mark Figley - Guest Columnist



In today’s wacky world, the preponderance of news that gets reported is that which promotes the narrative of the left. Short of being misrepresented, stories that impede this are customarily ignored. That was certainly the case with some recent good news from Portsmouth, Ohio.

Shawnee State political philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether sued the university in November 2018 after it formally charged him with violating Title IX. Specifically, he was alleged to have created a hostile environment in January 2018 for refusing to refer to a male student as a woman with feminine titles and pronouns.

During the incident in question, Meriwether responded to a male student’s question by saying, “Yes, sir.” After class, the student informed the professor that he was transgender and demanded that he be addressed as a woman. Meriwether declined, but offered a compromise.

He agreed to use the student’s last name, or any other name he preferred, but the student became testy and threatened to get Meriwether fired. He then filed a formal complaint against Meriwether which led the university to initiate an investigation of the matter.

The professor continued his attempts to reach an accomodation, but the administration continued to demand that he accept the student’s use of preferred pronouns or eliminate sex-based pronouns entirely. Meriwether refused, to which he was charged with violating Title IX. In addition, a written warning was placed in his personnel file, and he was threatened with suspension without pay or termination if he resisted.

But the real problem is that professor Meriwether identifies as a Christian. Back in 2016, he expressed his concerns after Shawnee State directed its faculty to address students by their preferred pronouns. He was met with disdain by his department chairwoman who said that “the presence of religion in higher education is counterproductive” and that Christians should be barred from teaching courses on Christianity. Meriwether was further advised that despite his moral and religious beliefs, the preferred pronoun policy would stand.

So, the professor had no choice but to sue. His constitutional rights of free speech, religious liberty, due process and equal protection demanded no less. After a federal judge initially threw out his complaint, Meriwether appealed his case to the Ohio 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Citing the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that the government may not require anyone to affirm a belief with which he disagrees, and that free speech applies to public universities, the court ruled that “professors do not shed their constitutional rights at the gate.” In quickly reversing the original ruling, the court added that Shawnee State chose to punish Meriwether for his speech despite the protections of the first amendment.

Finally, the 6th circuit said enough was enough. Whereas once upon a time universities promoted divergent thought as part of the education process, they now delusionally determine what qualifies as acceptable thought and speech. And in this particular case, a college stood with a student to subjectively define truth despite opposition based upon scientific fact. By pushing back, which doesn’t happen enough, professor Meriwether provided hope that normalcy still exists for those in search of it. And best of all, religious and academic freedom still matter despite the efforts of the radical left to attack them at every turn.

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By Mark Figley

Guest Columnist

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a figley@wcoil.com.

Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a figley@wcoil.com.

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