Dr. Johnson Varkey, a long-time biology professor at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas, is facing allegations of being fired for teaching that sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes. The incident, which occurred in January 2023, has sparked a debate surrounding academic freedom and its compatibility with contemporary societal norms.
Decades of Unchallenged Curriculum
Dr. Varkey has included teachings on the human reproductive system and sex determination, including the role of X and Y chromosomes, in his classes for over twenty years. Throughout this time, there were no reported incidents or complaints regarding his assertions that human sex is determined biologically and that reproduction requires both a male and a female.
The Incident That Ignited Controversy
The controversy began on November 28, 2022, when four students walked out of Dr. Varkey’s class in response to his lecture on sex determination through X and Y chromosomes. Subsequent allegations accused him of engaging in religious preaching, discriminatory remarks against homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic comments. Critics argue that his teachings surpassed the boundaries of academic freedom and included offensive personal opinions.
Science or Religion?
Interestingly, the college claims that Dr. Varkey’s teachings had a religious nature, despite being part of an approved science-based curriculum. On the other hand, First Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Dr. Varkey, argues that his teachings align with his education, experience, and religious beliefs. They emphasize that he never discussed his personal views on human gender or sexuality in his classes.
A Question of Discrimination
First Liberty Institute asserts that the college’s actions constitute unlawful religious discrimination in employment, violating the First Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They argue that Dr. Varkey’s Christian faith and his professional duty to teach accurate biological concepts necessitate the inclusion of these principles.
Request for Reinstatement
The law firm is demanding that St. Philip’s College reinstate Dr. Varkey. Keisha Russell, Counsel for First Liberty Institute, deems it unreasonable to terminate a professor with over twenty years of experience for teaching widely accepted biological facts. Russell contends that the college has violated Dr. Varkey’s constitutional and statutory rights and must promptly reinstate him.
The Clash of Science and Society
This case serves as a significant point of contention in the ongoing discussion about how biology, gender, and education intersect. It highlights the tensions that emerge when scientific principles seemingly conflict with ever-evolving societal norms. As the story unfolds, it is likely to prompt further debates about academic freedom, the boundaries of scientific education, and inclusivity in the classroom.
Exploring the Boundaries of Biology Education: Controversy Surrounding X and Y Chromosomes