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A Texas community college has reinstated an adjunct biology instructor it fired after reportedly receiving complaints of “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and
transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter” in his classroom.

An official with St. Philip’s College—a public, Hispanic-serving and historically Black institution that’s part of the Alamo Colleges District—cited these complaints in a January 2023 termination letter sent to Johnson Varkey.

“You are already not scheduled for Spring 2023 classes, but the seriousness of your behavior warrants the prohibition of any further employment with the college district,” the letter said.

But the First Liberty Institute, a Christian nonprofit law firm, threatened to sue on Varkey’s behalf. It argued that—while Varkey is an associate pastor and devout evangelical Christian who believes it’s wrong to “alter” one’s sex—he “did not preach any of his beliefs in class.”

In a news release Tuesday, First Liberty said it had filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the “parties reached a favorable settlement which, among other provisions, guarantees that Dr. Varkey will be back in the classroom by fall 2024.” Kayla Toney, associate counsel at First Liberty, told Inside Higher Ed the EEOC settlement agreement is confidential but "favorable" to Varkey, and added, "we’re so glad that the college decided to do the right thing."

An Alamo Colleges District spokeswoman wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that “St. Philip’s College and the Alamo Colleges District have reinstated Dr. Varkey’s adjunct instructor status.” She didn’t respond to requests for more information on why he was rehired, and the district didn’t provide a requested interview about the issue.