FIRE backs biology professor who says he was fired for saying chromosomes determine sex       


A national, nonpartisan free speech advocacy group has urged a Texas college to rehire a professor who claims to have been fired because some students took issue with him teaching that biological sex is determined by chromosomes.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression sent a letter to St. Philip's College last week regarding the recent dismissal of Professor Johnson Varkey, who taught at the public historically black community college in San Antonio for 20 years.

The letter was written by Ida Namazi, program officer of campus rights advocacy at FIRE, and addressed to St. Philip's President Adena W. Loston.

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"It is settled law that the First Amendment binds public institutions like St. Philip's, such that its actions and decisions, including its disciplinary sanctions, must comply with the First Amendment," wrote Namazi.

"Academic freedom — a corollary of free expression that the Supreme Court identifies as a 'special concern of the First Amendment' — necessitates that faculty members receive substantial breathing room to determine how to approach subjects and materials relevant to their coursework."

Namazi wrote that even if a student "believes — reasonably or not — that Varkey's presentation, interpretation, or discussion of that material was offensive, it remains protected if it is broadly 'related to' scholarship or teaching."

"St. Philips' decision to investigate then terminate Varkey without so much as notifying him of the charges against him raises serious due process concerns," the letter continued.

"Accordingly, we request Varkey be reinstated, with all disciplinary charges against him in this matter dropped and expunged from his file. We also request that the college recommit to upholding faculty's expressive and academic freedom rights moving forward."

The Texas-based religious liberty nonprofit First Liberty Institute sent a complaint letter to St. Philip's and the Alamo Colleges District, which St. Philip's belongs to, regarding Varkey's firing. 

Varkey was fired in late January after some students walked out of his class when he taught that human sex was determined by one's chromosomes instead of a chosen gender identity.

Varkey was accused of engaging in "religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter."

Kayla Toney, associate counsel at First Liberty and one of the signatories of the complaint letter, told The Christian Post last month that "St. Philip's College violated multiple federal and state laws when it fired Dr. Varkey."

"Public schools have no business firing teachers or professors simply because they hold a different view than their students. No American should be forced out of their job because of their religious beliefs," Toney said.  

"The Constitution and Title VII protect Americans from being forced to speak messages that violate their consciences, or being punished by their employers for their religious beliefs."

Kristi Wyatt, associate vice chancellor of Communications & Engagement at the Alamo Colleges District, previously told CP that "the Alamo Colleges District does not comment on personnel matters or pending or threatened litigation."

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