Forced to Use Pronouns

Pronouns At Work

Forced to Use Pronouns

Can They Force Me to Use “Preferred” Pronouns?

It depends on who YOU are and who THEY are.  It also depends on the circumstances, but probably not.


As always, be cautious when you read anything on the internet, as it is information, NOT legal advice.  In addition, the use of preferred pronouns – though not new – is becoming more widespread, so there may be new laws, e.g., the revised Title IX.

Finally, this country is very divided, and the laws coming out of different federal circuits are a mess. Hopefully, one of these cases will reach the Supreme Court, and we will receive guidance .

Can a Stranger Force Me to Use Preferred Pronouns?

No.  If you pass a stranger on a street (that does not know you in a government or employment setting), you probably have no duty to use that person’s “preferred pronouns”.  (Also, there is probably no reason to).

Can My Boss Force me to Use Preferred Pronouns?

A private employer must abide by federal and state laws.  The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.  Title VII applies to employers in both the private and public sectors that have 15+ employees.

In 2020, in a case called BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, 140 S.Ct. 173, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII’s protection against sex discrimination extends to an employee’s sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI).  However, Bostock does not address the issue of whether not using someone’s preferred pronoun in the in the workplace violates federal civil rights law.

The EEOC has a guidance publication, Protections Against Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, which states this:

11. Could use of pronouns or names that are inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity be considered harassment?

Yes, in certain circumstances. Unlawful harassment includes unwelcome conduct that is based on gender identity. To be unlawful, the conduct must be severe or pervasive when considered together with all other unwelcome conduct based on the individual’s sex including gender identity, thereby creating a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or offensive. In its decision in Lusardi v. Dep’t of the Army,[7] the Commission explained that although accidental misuse of a transgender employee’s preferred name and pronouns does not violate Title VII, intentionally and repeatedly using the wrong name and pronouns to refer to a transgender employee could contribute to an unlawful hostile work environment.

What About the Constitution?

The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private employers.  And they have more freedom to set their own rules, but they must still comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.  If your faith conflicts with their rules about using preferred pronouns, it may be a good idea to request a religious accommodation.

If Your Boss is a Government Employer

Government may not compel speech.  Compelled speech is when the government punishes you for saying or not saying something, in violation of your personal beliefs. See West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette.  In that case, during World War II, the WV Board of Education required students and teachers at public schools to pledge allegiance to the flat, and salute it.  One family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their children did not comply because they believed the Bible forbid it.  The children were kicked out of school, and the parents faced prosecution.  The Supreme Court held a state cannot force children say the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the flag.  They said this:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
Thus, if you are a government employee, your employer probably cannot and should not force you to use “preferred pronouns” if it violates your beliefs and you are not actively trying to harass someone.
Is Non-Use of Preferred Pronouns “Hate Speech”?

It depends, but I don’t think so.  But even if a reasonable person can differ, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment.  

There is a case, Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), where the Supreme Court held that burning the U.S. flag (which is very hateful!) was protected speech.

The court said this:

The way to preserve the flag’s special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong. “To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

I’m a Public University Student, and my Professor is Demanding I use Pronouns or Take a Lower Grade In Class

This actually happened to my friend.

Unless there is repeated harassment amounting to discrimination, a public university may not compel students to use – or punish students for not using –  preferred pronouns.  Doing so amounts to compelled speech, and violations of free speech, free exercise, and arguably establishment clauses.

Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they step onto campus, as repeated many times by our Supreme Court, as recently as the Coach Kennedy ruling. Kennedy-v-Bremerton-School-District-2022-06-27-SCOTUS-Opinion

The First Amendment’s protections extend to “teachers and students,” neither of whom “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506,

I am a Professor at a University.  Can I be Forced to Use Preferred Pronouns?

In a unanimous decision, the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Professor Nicholas Meriwether (who faithfully refused to use preferred pronouns) against Shawnee State University.  Meriwether v Hartop.

The Court stated,

If professors lacked free-speech protections when teaching, a university would wield alarming power to compel ideological conformity.  A university president could require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of God, or a Soviet émigré to address his students as ‘comrades.’

That cannot be.

After that decision, Shawnee State paid Dr. Meriwether $400,000 settlement.  Praise God for brave professors.

I’m a Public School Teacher.  Can they force me to use preferred pronouns?

For teachers K-12, recently, see Jessica Tapia’s case. (A great victory for Advocates for Faith and Freedom!)

Jessica Tapia was fired from Jurupa Unified School District after the school issued a policy that she MUST use “preferred pronouns” on students and hide their gender transitions from parents.  She requested a religious accommodation should the situation arise, and the school denied it.

Tapia filed suit.

What resulted? A $360,000 settlement from her former employer, California’s Jurupa Unified School District, delivering a message to other educators of faith that “truth will win in the end.”

I am a public school student.  Can the school force me to use pronouns?

While it’s not exactly a “preferred pronoun” case, there currently is a case in Massachusetts involving a 7th grader named Liam Morrison, who wore a tee-shirt to school that said, “There are only two genders.”

The school asked him to take off the shirt.  After Liam politely declined, they kicked him out of class.

The lower court ruled for Liam.  However, Liam’s attorneys appealed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. (LM-v-Town-of-Middleborough-2023-09-25-Appellate-Opening-Brief) They argued their case on Fberuary 7, 2024 and now we wait!

Speak the Truth in Love

As Christians, we are called to speak the truth in love.  (Even if you are not a Christian, speaking the truth in love is a good idea.)  This post isn’t to empower those who want to purposely harass someone.

Today, many of us are being bullied into accepting beliefs that are against our faith, against our conscience.

You may believe you are your own creator and you can freely change your sex or gender.  Many do not.

Forced to Use Pronouns?

The usage of pronouns on social media profiles is a preference.  You can certainly do it, but you cannot force someone else to.  On that note, if your faith stands against gender ideology, do not use pronouns on your bio just because “everyone else is doing it”!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

If you are have been threatened  to use “preferred pronouns” or suffer adverse action, and this violates your faith, you may want to explore seeking a religious accommodation.

Due to the precedent set by these few brave teachers and students, Courts have been asked to provide relief from ideology in violation of their faith, and thankfully, the Courts have granted protect for the right to NOT use preferred pronouns.

Have a case like this?

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