The anatomy of the First Amendment

The anatomy of the First Amendment

The anatomy of the First Amendment

Religious legal advocacy organizations continue to defend the free speech rights of their science-touting clients who've been censored by the education system.

On Tuesday, First Liberty Institute sent a letter demanding that St. Philip's College in San Antonio, Texas reinstate Dr. Johnson Varkey to his position as an adjunct professor after he was fired for teaching standard principles of human biology and reproduction.

"He has taught human anatomy at St. Philip's College, which is a public community college, for the past 20 years," First Liberty attorney Kayla Toney reports. "He taught over 1,500 students, never had any issues or complaints, received great performance reviews every year. And one day this past November, a handful of students walked out of his class when he taught that sex is defined by the chromosomes X and Y."

Within about six weeks, Dr. Varkey received a letter from the school saying the offended students had filed a complaint against him, that there was an investigation going on, "and then, before he knew it, he had been fired."

The letter asks St. Philip's College to reinstate or guarantee the professor's reinstatement by July 5th. And to clear Dr. Varkey's record, First Liberty has also requested a written acknowledgement that his termination was not for cause.

Toney, Kayla (First Liberty) Toney

If the college does not respond or do what First Liberty requests, Toney says they will "proceed as our client directs, which will probably mean seeking redress in federal court and also filing at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)."

AFN is seeking comment from St. Philip's College.

In Middleborough, Massachusetts Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) continues to fight for a seventh grader who was told he could not wear a factual t-shirt to school.

Earlier this year, Liam Morrison (pictured above) was told he could not wear a t-shirt that read, "There are only two genders" to Nichols Middle School. Soon after, he was told his "there are censored genders" t-shirt was likewise not allowed.

Recognizing that the case is about much more than a dress code policy, ADF stepped in with a federal lawsuit.

Last week, a federal court in Boston denied a request for a preliminary injunction, but Morrison's attorneys say that is not a final ruling.

"What that is is the court saying the plaintiff, Liam, will not be allowed to wear his shirt at school while the lawsuit continues," attorney Logan Spena explains. "We asked for an immediate order permitting him to keep wearing his shirt, and the court denied that request on Friday."

ADF was looking to get a decision in favor of Morrison on or before June 26th, which is the seventh grader's final day of school.

"We're going to keep working on it, though we don't expect to be able to get any kind of ruling from anybody by that point," Spena admits. "One thing that you are permitted to do in the federal system is to appeal a denial of this kind immediately, so we don't have to keep going at the trial court level in order to potentially get a ruling on Liam's behalf that would at least protect him, for example, in the fall."

The appeal to be filed at the First Circuit Court of Appeals will address the court's ruling on this particular issue.

Spena, Logan (ADF attorney) Spena

"The Supreme Court has been consistent that students don't shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate, and the First Amendment rights [of] students are extremely important," Spena cites. "We're teaching students how to live in a representative republic, to live with people of different views. Liam was expressing his view in a way that wasn't disruptive to anybody else, but unfortunately, the court's ruling essentially said that schools can censor his view because it might be offensive to some other students."

But ADF insists that is inconsistent with "both the letter and the spirit of the law on the First Amendment."

Spena says students have the right to peacefully express their views, especially basic science on important subjects.

"We're having this dialogue about gender all over our country, and the school itself was promoting one particular view about sex and gender," notes Spena. "It had annual pride events that had pride flags visible in the hallway and posters and the like."

He maintains that Morrison has a right to speak on that dialogue, and him being censored because of the school's disapproval of his views is a "grievous violation of his rights and a threat to the rights of all students."