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Indian American ‘Christian’ Professor Reinstated a Year After Being Fired for His ‘Deterministic’ Views on X and Y Chromosomes

Indian American ‘Christian’ Professor Reinstated a Year After Being Fired for His ‘Deterministic’ Views on X and Y Chromosomes

  • Johnson Varkey, an adjunct professor of Human Anatomy and Physiology at St. Philip's College in San Antonio, Texas, was accused of “offensive” and “unacceptable religious preaching” in the classroom.

An Indian American professor at a Texas college has been reinstated a year after he was fired for teaching what his lawyers call “standard principles about human biology and reproduction.” Johnson Varkey, an adjunct professor of Human Anatomy and Physiology at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, claimed that he was dismissed for “teaching that X and Y chromosomes are the sole determinate of a person’s sex,” according the Christian conservative law firm First Liberty Institute, who defended him.

The college website describes it as “a historically Black college and Hispanic serving institution.” 

In a statement, First Liberty Institute noted that Varkey, who taught Human Anatomy and Physiology to more than 1,500 students since 2004, “never discussed with any student his personal views—religious or otherwise—on human gender or sexuality.” His also “consistently received exemplary performance reviews and was never subject to discipline in his two-decade career.” 

A devout Christian, he serves with his wife as a volunteer associate pastor at International Bible Church in San Antonio. He also hosts a Bible-teaching radio ministry called Rehoboth Voice. 

The college fired Varkey in January 2023, Liberty First said. The termination letter mentioned that it “received numerous complaints” about his “offensive” and “unacceptable religious preaching” in the classroom.

First Liberty Institute filed a charge of discrimination at the EEOC against St. Philip’s and the Alamo Community College District. Lawmakers like Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and several Evangelical Christians called for Varkey’s reinstatement. “The parties reached a favorable settlement which, among other provisions, guarantees that Dr. Varkey will be back in the classroom by fall 2024,” the firm added.

“We are happy that the Alamo Community College District voluntarily reinstated Dr. Varkey,” said Kayla Toney, Associate Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “He is excited by this outcome, and we are glad that ACCD did the right thing.” She said the professor is “looking forward to continuing to educate students at ACCD.”

According to the San Antonio Current, lawyers also sent a letter to Alamo Colleges shortly after his dismissal. In that letter, they described Varkey as a “devout Christian,” who believes that “one should not attempt to erase or alter his or her sex,” and that “absent of a compelling reason, one should not sterilize oneself,” the report said. However, the lawyers said Varkey never shared those views during lectures, the report added. 

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In the EEOC complaint, Varkey stated that on Nov. 28, 2022, four students walked out of his class when he stated, “consistent with my study of human biology and my religious beliefs, that sex was determined by chromosomes X and Y.” And thought St. Philip’s College “refused to explain any details about the ‘complaints’ directed toward me, I presume that the complaints came from these students,” he added. “In two decades of teaching these basic, unremarkable concepts, no other students have ever complained.” 

Varkey detailed in his complaint what he taught in class the day the students walked out. “I also explained that when a sperm (which has 23 chromosomes) joins with an egg (which also has 23 chromosomes), a zygote (which has 46 chromosomes) is formed, and it begins to divide, and after 38 weeks a baby is born,” he wrote. “Because no information is added or deleted in those 38 weeks, life starts when the zygote begins to divide, not when the baby is born.”

As a Christian, he said he believes 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 in the EEOC complaint. “Although these are my religious beliefs, I never mentioned them in class. I did not preach any of my beliefs in class,” he added. “Thus, the allegation that I conducted ‘religious preaching’ is unsubstantiated.”

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