Professor wins round in free speech case on transgender pronouns

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a Christian professor can pursue his First Amendment lawsuit against his university for disciplining him for refusing to call a transgender student by her preferred pronouns. The three- judge panel rested their ruling on academic freedom. (Courthouse News Service, March 26, 2021, by Kevin Koeninger)

The appeals court found that Garcetti v. Ceballos, a Supreme Court ruling that held that government employee speech made at work was not protected by the First Amendment, did not apply to public university teaching. (Reason, March 26, 2021, 2021, by Eugene Volokh)

The student claimed the professor was creating a hostile atmosphere in the classroom by not calling her by her preferred pronoun. The professor felt it was a violation of his core beliefs to use the pronoun, and the court thought the prohibition blocked useful academic discussion. “By forbidding Meriwether [the professor] from describing his views on gender identity even in his syllabus,” wrote the court, “Shawnee State silenced a viewpoint that could have catalyzed a robust and insightful in-class discussion.” (The Washington Post, March 27, 2021, by Derek Hawkins)

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