Around the nation, Christians cheer the “pronoun” victory of Professor Nicholas Meriweather over the “woke” Shawnee State University in Ohio. Leftists are just as loud in their denunciations.
Like most schools, Shawnee State University has a “Mission Statement” designed to be catchy and arrogant: “We Prepare Today’s Students to Succeed in Tomorrow’s World.”
The Price of Arrogance
On April 18, 2022, one of the University’s big lessons for today’s students was accepting defeat without admitting it. It published the following statement:
“After four years of litigation, Shawnee State University made an economic decision to settle the Meriwether case. 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.”
Then, the University justified spending four years—and many dollars paying their attorneys—on a case that would have been settled quickly before the current “woke” epidemic.
“In this case, Shawnee State followed its policy and federal law that protects students or any individual from bigotry and discrimination. 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.”
Unlike most lessons, the University paid the tuition—estimated at $400,000.
When Traditional Virtue Becomes Pseudo-Aggression
Nicholas Meriweather was no neophyte in the world of University politics. According to The Hill, he “has been a fixture at Shawnee State for 25 years, serving in the faculty senate, designing the school’s bachelor’s degree program in philosophy and religion and taught classes ranging from ethics to the history of Christian thought.”
The professor summed up the central issue in a Fox News interview when the University announced the settlement.
“I believe that God created men and women, male and female…. [Also,] the college classroom is to be a place of debate and discussion and freewheeling ideas. The University has no place in telling professors how they are to think with the students. It was a coercion of my freedom of speech.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom represented Dr. Merriweather. Its chief counsel, Travis Burnham, was even more concise than the professor.
“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.”
A Simple Case that Became Very Complicated
The facts were simple. In class, Professor Meriweather asked a question of a student, whom the professor referred to as “Mr. Bruening.” After class, the student told the professor that he was a “transgender” and wanted to be referred to as a female. When the professor politely told the student that such usage would constitute a lie, the student became abusive and notified the University’s administration.
The administrators took the student’s side, equating the professor’s views to a “hypothetical racist or sexist.” Further transgressions of this sort would result in punishments, including dismissal.
The professor lodged a civil complaint in U.S. District Court and lost. He appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the professor and sent the case back to the District Court. While waiting for the District Court to implement the Appeals Court’s opinion, the parties reached the $400,000 settlement.
“Woke” ideologues were quick to predict disaster.
Two days before the settlement announcement, Siobhan Boyd-Nelson of “Equality Ohio” told the Columbus Dispatch, “If this case were to come out poorly, the implications are devastating, honestly, for young people on college campuses.”
Andrew Koppelman, the John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at Northwestern University, absurdly injected issues of race into this conflict between the white professor and his white student. “The principle… would apply equally to a professor who from time to time addressed African American students by the N-word or who refused to call on African American students or who refused to call on women because he thought that neither of those groups ought to participate in class discussion.”
After the announcement, the same newspaper quoted Asaf Orr, senior staff attorney and director of the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We believe his lawsuit should have been dismissed and would have failed had the case continued. Regardless of this settlement, Shawnee State’s legal obligation to protect transgender students from discrimination remains intact. We remain committed to taking all necessary actions to safeguard the rights of transgender students at Shawnee State.”
Amir Vera, Jenn Selva and Claudia Dominguez of CNN darkly hinted that “The ruling comes as schools across the nation grapple with balancing the inclusivity of transgender students and the religious beliefs of some teachers.” Cable network MSN’s article pointed out that, “The settlement comes amidst a wave of anti-transgender legislation in the U.S.” MSN also took pains to point out that the members of the Sixth Circuit Court tribunal that ruled for the professor were all “Republican appointees, with two having been nominated by Donald Trump.”
The Vital Truth
Deluded as they are, the leftists are correct about one thing—cases like Nicholas Meriwether’s are vitally important. They define the difference between truth and falsehood. If Mr. Bruening is a man—and all available scientific evidence (as opposed to the “wishcraft” of popular psychology) says that he is—then he should be referred to as such. Anything else is to give credence to a lie, no matter how popular that lie may be.
Truth has never been a matter of popular opinion.
The relativist’s world of the early twenty-first century holds that nothing is true for everyone. “My truth” and “your truth”—the relativist posits—could be very different. This is insidious work and should be rejected by all because it casts Our Lord as a liar.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
Notice that Our Lord does not say “I have some truth,” “I say many truths,” or “I bring you truth.” He says that he is THE truth. Such a claim is exclusive. It means that everything that He says is true. More than that, He says that nothing opposed to Him could possibly be true.
Today, many pretend that they can create “alternate truths” and still get to Heaven if they are kind and accept all people without question.
Such people are deluding themselves. Cases like Nicholas Meriwether remind them that truth is absolute.