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Texas professor fired after teaching sex is determined by chromosomes: legal group

A biology professor in Texas says he was fired after teaching that sex in humans is determined by X and Y chromosomes.

St. Philip’s College, a public historically black community college in San Antonio, fired Dr. Johnson Varkey in January 2023. Varkey taught human anatomy and physiology at the college for 20 years, according to a letter sent to the school by the legal group First Liberty Institute demanding his reinstatement.

“Our letter explains that Dr. Varkey’s termination violates several laws that protect Americans from being punished for holding or expressing their religious beliefs,” the group wrote on its website June 23.

Reached by The College Fix, the institute referred to its published statements and declined to comment further.

Varkey’s firing allegedly came after four students walked out of his class in November 2022 in an act of protest over his teaching that X and Y chromosomes determine sex in humans.

Varkey’s letter of termination stated St. Philip’s College had “‘received numerous complaints’ about his ‘religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter,’” according to First Liberty Institute.

St. Philip’s College representatives have not responded to The College Fix’s requests for comment.

First Liberty argued in its letter that Varkey’s firing was an unconstitutional act of religious discrimination.

“When decisionmakers at St. Philip’s College terminated Dr. Varkey because of his religious beliefs and classroom statements about biology, they violated several federal and state laws, including the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” it stated.

In an interview with First Liberty Live, Varkey, who is also a pastor, denied claims he injected religious teachings into his lessons.

“I don’t bring my preaching into my classroom when I teach about human anatomy and physiology. I just teach basic biology. That’s all I teach,” Varkey said.

He said he did not quote scripture and that the disciplinary letter he received from the college did not cite any specific examples.

“It’s pretty clear he is teaching science … and it’s very clear he wasn’t doing any religious preaching,” said Keisha Russell, an attorney with the institute, during the same interview. But she added that, even if he said something religious in nature, that is constitutionally protected as well.

She said the college did not allow Varkey due process or a chance to defend his actions, that he was “just immediately fired.”

Varkey added he just wants his job back, because he loves teaching.

According to his attorneys, during “Varkey’s 20-year employment as a biology professor at St. Philip’s College, he consistently received exemplary performance reviews and was never subject to discipline.”

Varkey’s firing is not the first time a professor has had their career impacted for asserting sex is not socially constructed.

In July 2020, evolutionary biologist and Penn State postdoctoral research fellow Colin Wright was forced out of academia after being publicly shamed for asserting that “male and female are not social constructs, but are real biological categories that do not fall on a spectrum.”

“None of the views I have ever espoused are extreme. Indeed, all or most are taken as common sense by pretty much anyone who isn’t an activist or professional academic,” Wright wrote.

In September 2022, students protested at the University of Southern Maine after education Professor Christy Hammer said there are only two sexes.

The school refused to fire Hammer but “developed an alternative plan for this class and will be opening a new section of this course for those students who would like to move,” university spokesperson Gina Marie Guadagnino told the Bangor Daily News at the time.

MORE: White Penn State professor who resisted race-based grading files discrimination lawsuit

IMAGE: First Liberty / YouTube screenshot

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About the Author
College Fix contributor David Glasser is a rising second-year student at the Florida State University College of Law, with over six years of news and opinion writing experience for various publications. He is set to graduate in 2026.