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Lawyers for Dr. Johnson Varkey have demanded that the San Antonio area college reinstate him to his adjunct professor position after he said he was erroneously fired in January. The firm representing Varkey, the First Liberty Institute, sent a letter to the school this week requesting reinstatement.
“In January 2023, St. Philip’s College fired Dr. Varkey for teaching human biology just as he did in his previous twenty-year career as a professor. His statements are not only supported by his extensive education and experience, but they also reflect his sincerely held religious beliefs,” a Tuesday letter from First Liberty to St. Phillip’s administrators reads.
First Liberty argues that Varkey’s removal from his position violated federal and state law, and targeted Varkey’s First Amendment rights. Varkey has taught anatomy and physiology at the school for over 20 years.
He was accused by students of “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter,” during his teaching in the fall of 2022.
According to his lawyers, Varkey, who is also an associate pastor at a church in San Antonio, is a devout Christian who adheres to Christian teachings on sexuality and abortion but has not expressed those beliefs in the classroom.
“As his stellar performance reviews suggest, Dr. Varkey gladly taught students of all beliefs and backgrounds. Throughout his employment, he never discussed with any student his personal views — religious or otherwise — on human gender or sexuality,” the letter says.
The problem for Varkey came in November 2022 when several students walked out of a lecture when he discussed sexual differences.
“On November 28, 2022, four of Dr. Varkey’s 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,” the letter says.
In January 2023, Varkey received an email from the Alamo Colleges District Human Resources department saying that his credentials would be revoked pending investigation after a complaint stemming from his November lecture. Later that month, Varkey was told that he would be terminated due to the complaint.
“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 said in an email to Varkey.
The college noted that he was not slated to teach classes in the spring, but that he would not have any further teaching opportunities with the school.
St. Philip’s College has faced complaints from conservative-leaning professors in the past, with political science professor Will Moravits saying last month that his contract was terminated because of his beliefs after student complaints.
A lawyer for Moravits said that he had only attempted to get students “to engage all sides of controversial issues, such as police brutality and gender ideology. Many of his engagements with students in class discussion came in direct response to their questions.”