A federal appeals court has upheld the First Amendment rights of a professor, and an attorney on the case says things are just getting started.
Attorney John Bursch of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing Shawnee State Professor Nicholas Meriweather, explains that the Sixth Circuit has reversed a decision that dismissed the case outright based on the pleadings, sending it back for additional fact development and then a final judgment.
"In some ways, things are just getting started," Bursch notes, "but in addition, the Sixth Circuit [cited] very well established Supreme Court precedents in reaching a decision that it did."
For starters, when public employees work as faculty members for universities, they have free speech and free exercise rights in the classroom.
"They don't leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse doors," the ADF attorney asserts. "Colleges and universities can't act with religious animus towards their employees or other organizations without violating the Constitution, nor can they apply policies in ways that always benefit non-religious folks to the detriment of religious folks. There was evidence that both of those things had happened here, in addition to the free speech violations."
Dr. Meriweather, a professor of philosophy at Shawnee State University, was dismissed for declining to comply with a male student's demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns. Bursch says this case is not isolated, as similar issues are occurring nationwide.
"Our Center for Academic Freedom has litigated and won more than 400 cases against public universities and colleges involving violation of free speech and free exercise rights of faculty and students, and sometimes speakers coming to campus as well. So this is not just an isolated incident," he asserts. "In fact, there is an annual report card that another group does based on the speech polices that public colleges and universities have in place, and 90% of them have policies that are either blatant violations of the First Amendment or have serious problems with them."
In the secondary education realm, a New Jersey teacher recently won a financial settlement after the Wall Township School District threatened her for supposedly allowing a picture in the school yearbook of a student wearing a Trump T-shirt.
The Epoch Times reports Susan Parsons, who has since retired, sued the school system in 2019 saying she was scapegoated and received death threats over the controversy that made national headlines in the summer of 2017. She says she was mistreated and ordered to digitally remove a Trump logo from the Wall High School junior's shirt, and then she was blamed for censorship.
Conservative activist Joe Connor, whose wife also teaches in New Jersey, is outraged over the incident.
"It's not like he said something subversive or something that was anti-American," the We Win America activist points out. "He had our president, who was duly elected, on his T-shirt, and this teacher was told to block it out?"
Connor believes that if the tee had Che Guevara on it, "they probably would have left it."
The school paid Parsons the $325,000 settlement without an explanation or an apology.
"What were they paying her off for," Connor wonders. "It just seems like they wanted the whole story to go away and not have to make any kind of statement as to why they did what they did."
The Epoch Times reports another yearbook with an unaltered photo of the student with the MAGA T-shirt has been reissued.