Over the weekend, the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that reaffirmed America’s commitment to common sense conscience rights – despite the Biden Administration’s seeming indifference.
The reversal of a lower court ruling reinstates a lawsuit by Professor Nicholas Meriwether against his employer, Shawnee State University. The Ohio school had punished Meriwether for declining to call a student by a pronoun inconsistent with the student’s clear, observed biology.
Alliance Defending Freedom brought the suit on First Amendment grounds after the professor was told to use pronouns that a trans-identifying student dictated. At the time, Meriwether stated it would violate his religious beliefs to refer to any student by biologically inaccurate pronouns and titles. When he refused to bow to the administration’s new policy, the student attempted to get him fired.
Across academia, healthcare, public education, and other people-centric industries, countless people of faith are facing the same dilemma. Why must conscience rights be diminished due to another’s personal insecurities?
“Traditionally, American universities have been beacons of intellectual diversity and academic freedom,” wrote Judge Amul Thapar in the opinion from the Sixth Circuit. “They have prided themselves on being forums where controversial ideas are discussed and debated. And they have tried not to stifle debate by picking sides. But Shawnee State chose a different route: It 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.”
Sadly, many universities seem more committed to enforcing “woke” social standards developed by some of the most radical, anti-faith thinkers in the world than fostering rigorous academic debate and intellectual exploration. And this issue isn’t new; California has been dealing with similar issues for years.
In 2017, CFC opposed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights, Signed into law in 2017, SB 219 actually made it a criminal offense in California to use pronouns not approved by the subject. As CFC Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt testified at the time, this amounts to “government-compelled speech.”
“How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others,” Burt asked during his testimony. “Compelled speech is not free speech. Can the government compel a newspaper to use certain pronouns that aren’t even in the dictionary? Of course not, or is that coming next?”
California is generally on the leading edge of many national discussions – especially when it comes to radicalizing our nation with some of the most anti-faith, anti-family proposals. Because of this, Californians have a responsibility to get the message right before anyone else has to deal with it.
I’m urging you today: don’t let this conversation happen without your input. Aside from the real ramifications of efforts to erode free speech and conscience protections, learn about tactful ways you can engage your community, your church, and your neighbors on this non-partisan and very relevant issue.
We’ll keep you up-to-date as similar efforts again enter California’s political atmosphere.