Biology Professor Fired for Teaching…Biology

June 23, 2023
Biology Professor | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

This week, First Liberty sent a letter to St. Philip’s College and the Alamo Colleges District in San Antonio, Texas informing them of their unlawful actions against our client, Dr. Johnson Varkey. The college fired him for teaching basic and widely accepted concepts of biology. We’re asking the college to immediately reinstate Dr. Varkey to his position and clear his record of any wrongdoing.

In his role as an adjunct professor, Dr. Varkey taught Human Anatomy and Physiology to more than 1,500 students since 2003. During Dr. Varkey’s 20-year employment as a biology professor at St. Philip’s College, he consistently received exemplary performance reviews and was never subject to discipline. Throughout that time, he never discussed with any student his personal views—religious or otherwise—on human gender or sexuality.

In November 2022, four of Dr. Varkey’s students walked out of his class when he stated, consistent with his study of human biology and religious beliefs, that sex was determined by chromosomes X and Y. In two decades of teaching these basic, unremarkable concepts, no other students complained.

But in January, 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.” In other words, he was fired for teaching true and widely accepted concepts. The statements he made are supported by research and consistent with his professional experience and education.

In addition to having a foundation in science, Dr. Varkey’s statements also reflect his religious beliefs. He is a devout Christian who serves as a volunteer associate pastor at his church in San Antonio. He also hosts a Bible-teaching radio ministry.

Like millions of religious Americans, Dr. Varkey has a sincerely held belief that God created humankind male and female. His faith teaches 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, whether through drugs or surgical means. He also believes God ordained the sexual function for procreation, that children are a gift from God, and that, absent a compelling reason, one should not sterilize oneself.

Our letter explains that Dr. Varkey’s termination violates several laws that protect Americans from being punished for holding or expressing their religious beliefs:

“When decisionmakers at St. Philip’s College terminated Dr. Varkey because of his religious beliefs and classroom statements about biology, they violated several federal and state laws, including the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

What St. Philip’s College did is wrong—and Dr. Varkey should get his job back. Public universities have no business firing professors for teaching actual science. It’s harmful to academic freedom. It’s also harmful to religious liberty, as the college is sending a message that people of faith are not welcome and need not apply.

Dr. Varkey is the latest example of an everyday American who lost his job to a toxic cancel culture that is infecting employers across the country. He joins a long list of First Liberty clients—including Valerie Kloosterman, Lacey Smith, Robyn Strader and Fire Chief Ron Hittle—who lost their jobs.

From the boardroom to the break room, this hostile corporate culture and anti-religious bias are a serious threat to religious freedom. This reduces good people to second-class status, which is outrageous, wrong and makes a mockery of laws that protect religious Americans from discrimination.

Will you consider supporting First Liberty to help defend Dr. Varkey and the many everyday Americans facing career-ending threats?

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