First Liberty filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against St. Philip’s College on behalf of a biology professor who was fired – for teaching basic biology.
For 19 years, Dr. Johnson Varkey taught Human Anatomy and Physiology as an adjunct professor at the college in San Antonio, Texas. In November 2022, he explained to students that sex was determined by chromosomes X and Y.
Four students were upset by this, walked out of the course and complained to the administration about Dr. Varkey.
So St. Philip’s fired him.
Here’s what Varkey says he taught that so offended some students:
During my lecture on the human reproductive system, I stated that human sex is determined by chromosomes X and Y, and that reproduction must occur between a male and a female to continue the human species.
I also explained that when a sperm (which has 23 chromosomes) joins with an egg (which also has 23 chromosomes), a zygote (which has 46 chromosomes) is formed, and it begins to divide, and after 38 weeks a baby is born.
Because no information is added or deleted in those 38 weeks, life starts when the zygote begins to divide, not when the baby is born.
Basic biology, right?
First Liberty describes itself as “the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans.” The organization explained in a statement that the professor had a terrific teaching record:
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.
But on January 12, 2023, the historically black community college sent him an email saying he was under investigation because the Alamo Colleges District Human Resources Department had received “an ethics violation complaint.”
Professor Varkey states in his EEOC discrimination charge:
I responded promptly and respectfully, asking, “What was the [student] complaint? I am not aware of any violations that I committed. Please clarify. Thank you.”
I received no substantive response, only a statement that “[a]ny further communication regarding this matter will be addressed through our Human Resources department.”
On January 27, the college sent him a “Notice of Discipline and Termination of Employment and Contract Letter,” stating they had “received numerous complaints” about his teaching. The letter said:
The [student] complaint contained several reports of “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter.” While some of the subject matter may be connected to class content, it was very clear, from the complaints, that you pushed beyond the bounds of academic freedom with your personal opinions that were offensive to many individuals in the classroom.
The school also said the professor did not “treat all persons with respect, dignity, and justice” and did not observe “the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity.”
Professor Varkey is a devout Christian; he and his wife volunteer as associate pastors with International Bible Church in San Antonio. As he explained to the EEOC, he believes:
God created humankind male and female, that one’s sex is ordained by God, that one should love and care for the body that God gave him or her, and that one should not attempt to erase or alter his or her sex, especially through drugs or surgical means.
But he contests the allegation that he preached at students, saying, “Although these are my religious beliefs, I never mentioned them in class.”
He also notes that his Christian faith and his “integrity as an academic” compel him “to teach accurate, true concepts that comport with my many years of research and study in the field of human biology.”
The EEOC discrimination claim alleges that St. Philip’s violated both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, terminating him based on his protected speech, religious beliefs and identity as a Christian.
Read Dr. Johnson Varkey’s EEOC discrimination charge.
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Photo from First Liberty.