One More Time: Conservative Personal Liberty Faces Off Against Enforced Progressive Cant

Shawnee

This time, personal liberty won.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Shawnee State professor Nicholas Meriwether, who had been reprimanded and disciplined because he “refused to refer to students by their ‘preferred pronouns. ‘” The small Ohio state school had issued a 2016 order that that any professor who “refused to use a pronoun that reflects a student’s self-asserted gender identity” would face discipline. When Meriwether asked if his own beliefs affected what he could call students, the official response was that he must call students what they demanded “regardless of” his own “convictions or views on the subject.” The student in question was male in appearance but identified as female. Meriwether maintained that his Christian faith forbade him from referring to a male in female terms; the student, according to Meriwether, threatened him if he refused to comply with the pronoun edict.  The court over-ruled a lower federal district court and held that university officials had violated the professor’s First Amendment rights to free speech and to the free exercise of his religion, thus attempting to“wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity.”

Normally, as in the Christian baker scenarios, I would take the position that, law aside—ethics, you know!—, this is an “asshole meets asshole” situation. How hard is it for either party to just yield a bit, respect the other’s sensitivities, extreme or not, and be accommodating? It is a Golden Rule opportunity. This time, however, it seems clear that the professor was willing to be reasonable, and the woke, non-binery, transitioning or whatever he or she was student was determined to go to extreme lengths to bend the professor to “her” will.

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Just To Show That Some Judges Get It Right…A Campus Speech Decision From The Sixth Circuit

Judges have been taking an ethics  bashing here recently, so I feel it’s only fair to report that the three-member U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in a 2-to-1 decision, determined that the University of Michigan’ speech police, known there as its Bias Response Team, chilled free speech on campus and thus violates the First Amendment.  The Team’s function is to investigate incidents reported by students that are deemed racist, sexist, hostile to LGBTQ students or otherwise “offensive” to the right groups of people. For example, if I were a student there, the creation of such an entity would be profoundly offensive to me.  That presumably wouldn’t matter.

Speech First, a Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties watchdog, sued Michigan last year, seeking an injunction to halt the activities of the BRT. The lawsuit argued that the Bias Response Team is illegal because it could potentially deter students from making statements or engaging in conduct that some on campus might find offensive but are still protected under the First Amendment. The university’s definitions of “harassment” and “bullying” were ominously broad, though Michigan did refine them after the suit was filed. The looming presence of a speech and conduct response team that could be focused on a non-conforming student by a single complaint could reasonably be expected to make students hesitate to express themselves.

Ya think? Nonetheless, a U.S. District Court judge initially denied the injunction last year. [Note: Here I have deleted a series of comments about the agenda and political affiliation of this judge and those who reason like him. I am trying to practice more self-restraint, today anyway.] Continue reading