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Faith Under Fire: A Despicable Victory Over Religious Rights in America
Catholic Exchange ^ | June 3, 2013 | GAIL FINKE

Posted on 06/04/2013 5:51:41 AM PDT by NYer

A court case from my home diocese making news around the country concerns a computer teacher fired from her job at two Catholic elementary schools in 2010, after announcing her pregnancy.

Here’s the story in a nutshell: Christa Dias, a lesbian who hid her partnership with another woman from the schools who employed her because she knew it would violate the morals clause of her employment contract, says she did not know that the Catholic Church considers artificial insemination to be immoral and so she was shocked — shocked! – to find herself without a job after announcing that she was expecting a baby.

She sued the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for discrimination, saying she was fired for being pregnant, and on Monday a jury agreed. They awarded her $171,000, a cool $100 grand of it for punitive damages.

The story is sordid in a 21st-century way: She planned the pregnancy, of course, and it turns out that the father, a gay man, is a friend. As if choosing a pal to be the father she purposefully deprived her child of having wasn’t confused enough, there’s more: In a story carried by the local newspaper at the time she filed suit, Dias said that she thought having a baby by artificial insemination would be considered moral by her employers because she wasn’t having sex outside of marriage.

The interview wasn’t exactly candid – at the time she was hiding that she had a female lover and thus was indeed having sex outside of marriage — but she still claims that she thought artificial insemination wasn’t a problem.

Maybe she’s been reading too much Dan Brown (spoiler alert: a key character in bestseller Angels & Demons turns out to be the son of the pope and a nun — but it’s not immoral, Brown says, because thanks to the miracle of in vitro fertilization, they never had sex!). The truth is that artificial insemination, like in vitro fertilization, is considered gravely wrong by the Church. They’re immoral in a different way from having either heterosexual or homosexual relations outside of marriage, but no less sinful.

Christa Dias

Christa Dias

So why is this a story and why does she have a case at all?

It’s a story because it’s about sex and religion. A pretty young woman has a sweet little baby, how can that be wrong? So she’s a lesbian and she lied about that — who cares in this day and age, except the mean old Catholic Church that just wants to oppress women and stop them from having sex with whoever they want to, whenever they want to? So she violated her contract — who cares about that either, as long as the contract is with anyone connected with the Catholic Church and concerns sexual morality?

She has a case because the judge who okayed her suit in February ruled that she was not a ministerial employee. We’ll go into the implications of that ruling in a minute, but its immediate effect was that the case could proceed. Judge Arthur Spiegel found that it was not clear whether Dias was fired for being pregnant (which is illegal) or for sexual activity outside of marriage (which can be illegal, if it is not applied equally to men and women) or for artificial insemination (also illegal if it was not applied equally to men).

Judge Spiegel said it was a jury’s job to decide that, so all last week we were treated to reports ranging from the bemused to the hysterical — the latter being CNN personality Ashleigh Banfield equating the schools’ morality clause to sharia law. Even in more sober accounts, we’ve heard about Ms. Dias crying on the stand as she remembered being fired, and testifying that she thought fulfilling the contract that she signed every year for five years just meant she should “be a Christian woman and follow the Bible.”

Dias, who says she is a Christian, presumably thinks that engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, having and lying about an ongoing homosexual relationship, having a friend donate his sperm to as if she were borrowing a cup of sugar, and violating an employment contract are all the actions of a “Christian woman” who “follows the Bible.”

“You didn’t have the slightest idea?” the Cincinnati Enquirer quotes the Archdiocese’s lawyer, Steve Goodin, asking Dias. “You thought there wouldn’t be a problem in Catholic doctrine that a gay woman was going to have a child with a gay man, outside of wedlock, by means of artificial insemination?”

There doesn’t seem to be a contest about Dias violating her contract — she did. The matter at hand is whether she should have been fired for doing so. Commenters on web sites that carry the story are having a field day with that (“Bet that’s the same contract that would have her stoned to death if she went to church during her period,” one person wrote. “This is the Catholic church we’re talking about. They cover up more crap on a daily basis than my dogs do,” wrote another. “The woman may have been a naive, believing her employer might’ve actually entered the 20th century,” wrote a third — all on the same site!) but legally, it seemed to be pretty cut and dried.

The verdict came late Monday and the news reports, though picked by media outlets around the English-speaking world, were light on details. Without seeing details of the jury’s findings, it’s not possible to say why they made their decision.

One clue is that much of the trial focused on the details of the firing. As mentioned above, firing a woman merely for being pregnant is illegal. However, morals clauses that prohibit out-of-wedlock pregnancy and other sexual actions are not illegal, as long as an employer applies them equally to men and women. If Dias argued and proved that male teachers in the Cincinnati Catholic schools network are known to have children outside of marriage and/or to have used artificial insemination within their marriages without being fired for it, that would have been a case for gender discrimination, or that for her being singled out in particular for some other reason.

Except. Except that this case should never have gone to trial in the first place, because Christa Dias was a ministerial employee.

This concept baffles some people. As evidenced in the newspaper and web site comment boxes, many people don’t see why a Catholic school employee who is not Catholic should have to abide by Catholic rules, even if she agrees to do so in writing. Others, like Judge Spiegel, don’t think that someone who teaches anything but religion can be considered a “minister.”

But it’s simple: Government is not supposed to decide who ministers for a religion, that’s the religion’s job. Judges are not supposed to say who is and who is not a ministerial employee, the church (or synagogue, or mosque, or ashram) is. And religions have the right to expect their ministerial employees to teach and live their religious beliefs. For that reason, ministerial employees are exempt from some discrimination laws that would otherwise compel religious organizations to keep ministers they determined unfit to minister.

In this case, the employers were the two schools who hired Dias. All teachers and support staff at a Catholic school are ministers in some sense, whether or not they teach religion. They represent the Catholic Church and are supposed to model Catholic life. When parents send their children to a Catholic school, they don’t say, “I expect the religion teachers to be good models for my children, but I the math, science, and English teachers can be ‘sister wives’ or coven leaders — what do we care?’”

Judge Spiegel has taken far too narrow a view of what a church is, and who a minister is. Like officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, who maintain that only a person who teaches a religion or performs its rites can be considered a religious employee, Judge Siegel mistakes the rites of a religion with the religion itself. In this view, almost everything a church does other than hold services or teach religion class is considered secular — and only secular.

So Dias’s victory should be closely noted by all employers — especially religious ones. When an employee violates her contract, she shouldn’t win if she sues for being fired. And when a religious school requires teachers to follow its teachings, no one should feign shock that such a thing is permitted in the United States of America. It’s not only permitted, it’s supposed to be guaranteed.

TOPICS: Catholic; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: christadias
Gail D. Finke is an author and mother living in Cincinnati, where she writes for The Catholic Beat at Sacred Heart Radio.
1 posted on 06/04/2013 5:51:41 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 06/04/2013 5:52:07 AM PDT by NYer ( "Run from places of sin as from the plague."--St John Climacus)
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To: NYer

The homosexual agenda is to destroy the Christian church any way they can.

3 posted on 06/04/2013 5:55:34 AM PDT by ilovesarah2012
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To: NYer

Isn’t the church going to appeal this appalling ruling?

4 posted on 06/04/2013 5:57:09 AM PDT by laweeks
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To: NYer

I cetainly hope the award is appealed. If it is allowed to stand it becomes a precedent.

5 posted on 06/04/2013 6:07:17 AM PDT by ThanhPhero (Khach hanh huong den La Vang)
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To: NYer

This is why the evil thug in our White House keeps using the phrase “freedom of worship”. Obama and his minions are trying to redefine freedom of religion much more narrowly, so that the right only applies for one hour on Sunday mornings (for Christians at least). We have to stand up for freedom of religion, a right that is absolute and that applies 24 hours a day and in all aspects of our lives. I hope the Catholic school retaliates against this evil, selfish woman as harshly as they can without being sued again. Perhaps they could reassign her to counting and shelving books in their storage rooms, so that kids are not exposed to her. I hope the community shuns her, her lesbian “partner”, her gay sperm donor, and the rest of her sick network. Women like this disgust me.

6 posted on 06/04/2013 6:16:54 AM PDT by Pollster1 ("Shall not be infringed" is unambiguous.)
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To: NYer

I cetainly hope the award is appealed. If it is allowed to stand it becomes a precedent.

7 posted on 06/04/2013 6:23:09 AM PDT by ThanhPhero (Khach hanh huong den La Vang)
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To: ThanhPhero
No, actually not.

A trial court's ruling may be persuasive, but it is NOT precedential.

The appellate court ruling is the first precedential opinion.

From a strategic point of view, you are correct, it will encourage others to sue. But from a legal point of view a trial court ruling cannot make precedent.

8 posted on 06/04/2013 6:39:37 AM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae. Vicit Leo de Tribu Iuda, Radix David, Alleluia!)
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To: AnAmericanMother

I am glad to know that.

9 posted on 06/04/2013 10:36:21 AM PDT by ThanhPhero (Khach hanh huong den La Vang)
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To: NYer
I guess Ms. Dias did not know the laws of the Church against this!

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Teacher Claims Catholic School Fired Her Over IVF
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Bishop criticizes reproductive technology’s ‘procreation without sex’
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Catholic School Teacher Fired for Having In Vitro
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Actress Brooke Shields kills 140 of her very own Children by undergoing 7 IVF Treatments
Clinic Mix-Up Sparks Fears over IVF H

10 posted on 06/04/2013 3:39:27 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: ThanhPhero

sometimes lawyers can be helpful :-)

11 posted on 06/04/2013 6:25:06 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae. Vicit Leo de Tribu Iuda, Radix David, Alleluia!)
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To: Pollster1

Got to remember that to Obama, he claims that “freedom of religion” and “freedom of worship” is ONE and THE SAME.

12 posted on 06/05/2013 2:58:59 AM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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