Biology Professor Fired For Teaching Biology Sets Up Big Legal Showdown
St. Philip’s College in San Antonio has recently fired biology professor Johnson Varkey after 20 years, and a legal group representing him has now sent a letter to the college claiming that the firing was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
According to the letter sent by First Liberty Legal Group, Varkey received an email from Randall Dawson, the Vice President for Academic Success at St. Philip’s, on January 10, 2023. The email stated that the college was in receipt of a complaint about Varkey’s facilitation of a BIOL 2402 class during the Flex II Fall 2022 term.
When Varkey asked what the complaint was, Dawson didn’t respond. However, Varkey later received a notice informing him of his termination on January 27. The notice reportedly claimed that there were complaints about Varkey’s “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter.”
The letter from First Liberty states that Varkey is a “devout Christian” who never spoke about his religious beliefs in class and was simply reiterating scientific facts when he said sex is determined by chromosomes X and Y. This incident was allegedly the same one where four students reportedly walked out of his class on November 28, 2022.
The legal group says that despite Varkey’s longstanding teaching of the same scientific facts on sex, no other student ever complained in the past. Furthermore, the legal group also claims that St. Philip violated Title VII when they terminated Varkey primarily due to his religious beliefs and the protected speech he used in class.
Thus, the legal group is threatening to take legal action if St. Philip does not reinstate Varkey. In regard to this situation, St. Philip’s College has not yet released a statement or response regarding the legal group’s claims.
The issue of religious freedom and free speech is something that’s been getting a lot of attention recently, and it’s likely that this will receive even more scrutiny as the details of Varkey’s case emerge. It remains to be seen if St. Philip’s will ultimately reinstate Varkey or face the legal repercussions from the group. In any case, this incident serves as a reminder to public institutions everywhere of the importance of protecting the First Amendment rights of their employees.