Evangelical biology professor files EEOC complaint after firing

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A Texas biology professor fired for what attorneys say were “standard principles about human biology and reproduction” has filed a complaint against his former employer.

Dr. Johnson Varkey, a former adjunct professor at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after he was fired in January in response to what the community college said were “numerous complaints” about a lesson he taught last fall on human biology, according to Plano-based First Liberty Institute. 

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The complaint — which accused Varkey of “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter” — centered on a student walkout in November 2022 after Varkey stated that biological sex was determined by chromosomes X and Y, according to attorneys.

In response to the lesson, a “handful of students” walked out of his class and complained that Varkey’s teaching “pushed beyond the bounds of academic freedom with [his] personal opinions that were offensive to many individuals in the classroom.”

While the students who walked out of Varkey’s class were not identified, LGBT advocates insist sex and gender are often fluid rather than binary. Christian apologists argue that if sex and gender were not intertwined, cross-sex hormones or sex change operations would be unnecessary.

Despite teaching the same “basic scientific concepts” in Human Anatomy and Physiology to more than 1,500 students since 2004, attorneys say Varkey received positive student feedback and was never disciplined before last November.

While attorneys say Varkey taught from “school-approved and science-based curriculum,” officials at St. Philip’s claimed his teaching was of a religious nature and, on January 27, issued Varkey a notice of termination.

Varkey, who identifies as a “devout” Evangelical and serves with his wife as a volunteer associate pastor at International Bible Church in San Antonio, said in his EEOC statement that he “never mentioned” his religious beliefs in class.

“As a Christian, I also believe that God has ordained the sexual function for procreation, that children are a gift from God, and that, absent a compelling reason, one should not sterilize oneself,” he wrote. “Although these are my religious beliefs, I never mentioned them in class. I did not preach any of my beliefs in class.” 

“Thus, the allegation that I conducted ‘religious preaching’ is unsubstantiated.”

In fact, Varkey stated, in the interest of transparency, he would inform his students at the beginning of each semester that he serves as an associate pastor.

“The College assumed I was preaching rather than teaching due to negative, discriminatory stereotypes about Christians,” Varkey said. “This perception was inaccurate and discriminatory.”

A spokesperson for St. Philip’s College, which is a part of the Alamo Colleges District, declined to comment on pending litigation in June,

Keisha Russell, counsel for First Liberty Institute, said the college clearly violated state and federal law.

“No college professor should be fired for teaching factual concepts that a handful of students don’t want to hear,” said Russell. “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.”

Founded in 1898 and named after Philip, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, St. Philip’s College is a “Historically Black College and Hispanic Serving Institution” and is part of a network that serves over 100,000 students in South Texas, according to its website.

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