A former human biological professor at a Texas university says he was fired for teaching students that sex is determined by the X and Y chromosomes and is considering legal action.
Johnson Varkey served as an adjunct professor and taught human anatomy and physiology at St. Philip's in San Antonio, Texas, beginning in 2003 and received "stellar performance reviews," his legal representation says.
The controversy about his classroom began on Nov. 28 last year, when four of his students "walked out of his class when he stated, consistent with his study of human biology and his religious beliefs, that sex was determined by chromosomes X and Y," according to a letter from his legal counsel, First Liberty, to the university. The letter describes Varkey as a Christian who is a volunteer associate pastor at his church.
On Jan. 12 of this year, Varkey received a letter from a university vice president stating he was under investigation due to an ethics violation complaint against him. He was terminated on Jan. 27. The termination letter said the university had received reports of "religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter."
First Liberty, though, says the professor "taught from school-approved and science-based curriculum" and "never discussed with any student his personal views – religious or otherwise – on human gender or sexuality."
First Liberty claims the university violated Varkey's free speech and religious freedom rights under the U.S. Constitution. The university also violated his religious liberty rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, First Liberty says.
Varkey taught students that "human sex is determined by chromosomes X and Y, and that reproduction must occur between a male and a female," the letter says.
"It is preposterous that, after teaching for more than 20 years, St. Philips would fire Dr. Varkey for teaching basic, widely accepted biology," said Keisha Russell, counsel for First Liberty Institute. "Dr. Varkey received exemplary performance reviews for twenty years, 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. The college violated Dr. Varkey's constitutional and statutory rights when it fired him, and it must reinstate him immediately."
If Varkey is not reinstated, he likely will seek "redress in federal court," the letter says.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.