A public university in Portsmouth, Ohio has been ordered by the court to pay $400,000 in damages to a professor who refused to call a student by his preferred pronouns.

Shawnee State University must now pay its philosophy professor Nick Meriwether $400,000 in damages and attorneys fees after he was punished when he refused to call a male student by his preferred pronouns. The incident in question was one back in January 2018,m when the political philosophy professor responded to a male student's question by answering "Yes, sir." After the class, the student told the professor that he was transgender and must be addressed with "feminine titles and pronouns."

According to Fox News, Meriwether argued that he could not abide by that request because it would violate his sincerely held Christian beliefs. Court documents said that the student became belligerent and told the professor that he would be fired for his actions. The student also filed a complaint with the university, which launched an investigation. The Ohio public university then concluded that Meriwether "effectively created a hostile environment" for the student for not calling him his requested pronouns.

Meriwether offered to call the student by any name requested, but the student rejected the offer. Shawnee State University then added a written warning to his personnel file saying that "further corrective actions" would be taken by the university if a similar accident would happen again. The professor filed a case against Shawnee State University, claiming that they violated his "right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in March 2021 ruled in favor of Meriwether, reversing a previous dismissal of the professor's lawsuit by a district court. This allowed the professor to continue his lawsuit against the Ohio public university.

According to The Hill, a panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 32-page opinion. All three of the judges were Republican appointees, two of which had been nominated by former President Donald Trump.

In the opinion, the judges wrote, "Traditionally, American universities have been beacons of intellectual diversity and academic freedom. 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."

The judges also accused the Ohio public university of "[punishing] 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."

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the professor, announced on Thursday that it had reached a $400,000 settlement with Shawnee State University. It will also rescind the letter on the professor's personnel file.

"Dr. Meriwether rightly defended his freedom to speak and stay silent, and not conform to the university's demand for uniformity of thought," ADF's senior council Tyson Langhofer said. "We commend the university for ultimately agreeing to do the right thing, in keeping with its reason for existence as a marketplace of ideas."