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St. Phillip’s Professor let go for teaching biology 101

Dr. Johnson Varkey, a professor at St. Phillip’s College, was fired from his position for teaching biology – that men have an X and Y chromosome, women have two X chromosomes.

Varkey defended his position on First Liberty Live, stating that he is teaching exactly what he has been teaching for the last 20 years – fundamental biology. 

“’I don’t bring my preaching into my classroom when I teach about human anatomy and physiology. I just teach basic biology. That’s all I teach.” Varkey also serves as a pastor at a local church in San Antonio, but insists he does not preach to the students and push his religious beliefs. 

“The former professor continued: ‘X and X, those two chromosomes, make a person female and X and Y, male. That’s all I mentioned in the classroom.”

First Liberty is defending Varkey and is petitioning for reinstatement at the San Antonio-based college. The college fired him in January 2023 after sending Dr. Varkey a termination letter saying the school “received numerous complaints” about his “offensive” and “unacceptable religious preaching” in the classroom.”
Varkey has had an exemplary career, teaching over 1,500 students biology since 2004, and was never subject to disciplinary action or performance issues.

First Liberty contends that what St. Philip’s College is discrimination.

“What St. Philip’s College did is wrong—and Dr. Varkey should get his job back. Our letter explains that Dr. Varkey’s termination violates the Constitution and laws that protect Americans from being punished for holding or expressing their religious beliefs.”

First Liberty Institute filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas on behalf of Dr. Johnson Varkey, a former adjunct professor, after the San Antonio public community college fired him for teaching standard principles about human biology and reproduction.

Read the charge here.

“No college professor should be fired for teaching factual concepts that a handful of students don’t want to hear,” said Keisha Russell, Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Dr. Varkey received exemplary performance reviews for nearly two decades, teaching fact-based, widely accepted science. But now that cultural elites are at odds with these ideas, the school no longer supports professors who teach them. It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone because of their religious beliefs.”

In his role as an adjunct professor, Dr. Varkey taught Human Anatomy and Physiology for 20 years. During Dr. Varkey’s twenty-year employment as a biology professor at St. Philip’s College, he received positive student feedback and was never disciplined.

In November 2022, a handful of Dr. Varkey’s students walked out of his class when he stated, consistent with his study of human biology, that sex was determined by chromosomes X and Y. In two decades of teaching these basic, scientific concepts, no other students ever complained. But on January 27, 2023, Dr. Varkey received a Notice of Discipline and Termination of Employment and Contract letter stating that the school “received numerous complaints” about his “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter” and that his teaching “pushed beyond the bounds of academic freedom with [his] personal opinions that were offensive to many individuals in the classroom.” Dr. Varkey taught from school-approved and science-based curriculum, but the college claims his teaching was religious.

In the EEOC charge, Dr. Varkey states, “St. Philip’s College engaged in disparate treatment that violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it terminated me because of my sincerely held religious beliefs and protected speech. The only reason the College gave for firing me was the student complaint(s) of ‘religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, antiabortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter.’ Ex D. While I never preached or proselytized in class, the accusation of religious preaching was clearly in connection with the fact that I serve as an associate pastor. I would mention this by way of introduction at the beginning of each semester, so my students were aware. The College assumed I was preaching rather than teaching due to negative, discriminatory stereotypes about Christians. This perception was inaccurate and discriminatory.”

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