Yet another fight for freedom of speech within the so-called “Ivory Tower” is in the news, and it hints that sometimes the most prominent aspects of the free-speech fights can shield people from carrying away other important lessons.
“A former Texas biology professor has filed a religious discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against his former employer, St. Philips College, alleging administrators fired him for teaching sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes.”
Well, there’s a bit more to the dispute than that. But for many, the alarm bells might be sounding, indicating that the Woke Mob likely wanted this man silenced.
Glasser adds that this filing is the first step in what likely will be a lawsuit against Philips College, and he writes:
“Former adjunct Professor Johnson Varkey, who is Christian, alleges in his July 25 complaint that St. Philip’s College ‘violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it terminated me because of my sincerely held religious beliefs and protected speech.’
Varkey’s firing came after four students walked out of his class in November 2022 in an act of protest, allegedly in part over his teaching that X and Y chromosomes determine sex in humans.”
Which, again, can prompt readers to feel justified umbrage over a man losing his job simply for stating the truth. But to focus solely on this postmodernist, cultural Marxist facet of the conflict is to do oneself, and the truth, a disservice. It is up to us to be aware of the lie hiding in plain sight.
The fact of the matter is that the federal government and its “EEOC” should have nothing to do with this conflict, or, to state it with greater specificity, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is an unconstitutional usurpation, an insertion of federal power into something where the feds have no jurisdiction.
“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects employees against discrimination based on certain specified characteristics: race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Under Title VII, an employer may not discriminate with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment.”
The facts are that the feds not only have no constitutional power to command that or punish people for transgressions of the seemingly kind and protective edict, all humans have a right to discriminate and decide with whom they want to associate. Indeed, discrimination is simply the act of choosing between two or more options, and all human beings have to engage in that act, all day, every day, to survive. To say that the state can punish a person or a business owner because he or she doesn’t want to associate with someone is to negate the right to freedom of association, because that freedom demands and includes the freedom not to associate.
For my students, who often believe that government punishments for “discrimination against” a minority person are acceptable, I draw out the example of a town with a majority non-racist population, but where a single skin-head racist works. Should other sellers be forced to sell to him? Should consumers be forced to employ him through purchasing his wares at his shop? After all, the consumer is the final employer, and how dare a consumer actually make a discriminating choice and decide what he or she prefers to do with his or her money or time?
As economist Walter Williams often stressed, should people on the dating market be forced to date anyone who asks them out? Of course not, and thus we can see that the Title VII portion of this 1964 “Civil Rights Act” not only is unconstitutional, without any enumerated power behind it, it is immoral.
The focus should be on what the Texas Constitution says and whether the professor was terminated in breach of contract. Does the Texas Constitution protect Varkey’s speech? Indeed, it does – both his speech and his freedom of worship.
So, when we read this, from Glasser’s report, does it seem pertinent?
“Varkey’s letter of termination, included as an exhibit in the complaint, stated the school had “‘received numerous complaints’ about his ‘religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter.’”
It certainly does seem pertinent. But not in the way many might think.
It would seem that Varkey would have a case on a state level, but not on a federal level, unless he sued under Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause grounds that Texas was not protecting him and his speech rights in a way that was equal to the speech and religious liberty protection other residents enjoyed in Texas.
It might seem needlessly complicating to focus on these unmentioned aspects of the story, but they really are the fundamentals on the constitutional and moral levels.
And, if one wants to deal with this story appropriately, one also needs to draw out one more piece of information, ask one more question: is this college entirely private, or does it receive federal or state money? Because, if it does not receive tax cash, the people running the school should be free to associate or not, to create speech rules or not – whatever they and their potential customers and employees might prefer.
If it DOES receive tax cash (yes, it does), that means that the taxpayer is being forced to pay for the professor’s work and for other aspects of the college pedagogy, that the taxpayer is not free to stop the speech he or she might find distasteful or false, wasteful, or offensive. The taxpayer has had his or her freedom of speech, and, in a way, freedom of association, infringed. He pays for the speech of others, and he is tied to those others -- employees at the college -- via the government.
Thus, the bright fires burning at the surface of this issue – the oft-seen matters of truth versus wokeism, and of religious freedom versus Cultural Marxism – are not the matters providing the long-term intellectual, constitutional, or moral heat.
And if Professor Varkey does bring a federal suit, likely these matters won’t even be explored in federal court. But for us, it’s an education, and one that we can pass on, even as the surface issues continue to rage.