ACLU v theocracy

The ACLU says no your religion does not mean that you get to harm people. It has to say that, because people who run Catholic schools want to harm people because religion.

Emily Herx, a former Language Arts and Literature teacher at St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic School in Indiana, was fired after she requested time off to receive in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.  She is suing the school for sex and disability discrimination in federal court, and today we filed a friend-of-the court brief to support her legal arguments.  A few states over, Jane Doe (a pseudonym), an employee at a Catholic school in Missouri, was fired for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock.  Today the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri filed a complaint on Jane’s behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sex discrimination.  

But sex discrimination is practically the whole point of God. Women are always trying to do things and you need God to tell them they’re different and special and complementary so they’re not allowed to. The ACLU is messing with serious stuff here.

St. Vincent’s pastor told Emily she was a “grave, immoral sinner” and it would cause a “scandal” if others learned that she used IVF treatment.  The president of Jane’s school told her that he was worried about others people’s perceptions about her pregnancy…It would be illegal for almost any employer to fire an employee who is (or is trying to become) pregnant.  But in these cases, the schools are arguing that they are entitled to discriminate because they are a religiously affiliated school.  That is flat out wrong.  When it comes to employees like Emily and Jane, who have absolutely no religious duties or responsibilities, it is always illegal for religiously affiliated employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or disability.  Because only women can become pregnant, these schools discriminated against Emily and Jane on the basis of their sex.

God said they could. God said they have to.

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it—religious freedom does not come with a license to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or disability.  Period.  The First Amendment protects our right to believe whatever we want and to act on those beliefs, unless those actions harm others. We live in a diverse society and the freedom to believe what you want comes with the responsibility to respect other people’s rights and beliefs, as well.  Just as restaurant owners in the 1960s were required to serve African-Americans despite their religious opposition to racial integration, and religious schools were required to pay male and female teachers equally, even though they believed the Bible considers men the head of the household, schools like St. Vincent cannot fire Emily and Jane because of their pregnancies, even if they believe IVF treatment or pregnancy outside of wedlock are sins.

It can if we live in a theocracy! And the theocrats are working on it.



  1. smrnda says

    There’s a lot wrong with this, but overall I just dislike this much oversight into the lives of employees on the part of employers. It’s not that school’s business whether or not a teacher is pregnant nor is it any of their business how she got pregnant. Asking this information seems like a huge intrusion.

    This assault on worker rights in the name of the ‘religious liberties’ of employers needs to be fought and fought hard, until no employer would think of pulling this kind of BS.

    Though on another note – I used to live in a town where there was an Evangelical Christian School, and they made teachers sign some sort of contract where they agreed to abide by a number of rules which included not smoking or drinking ever along with a host of other rules. I know that they would probably allege that signing such a contract was voluntary, but it bothers me that any employer would seek to regulate worker conduct outside of the work-day. The other thing is, it isn’t like people really always have so much choice in where to work, so I can’t even see that as a free choice at all.

  2. Andrew G. says

    Religious schools have on occasion been able to get away with firing teachers or otherwise violating normal employment laws because of the “clergy exception” – a religious group can’t be told who to hire or not hire as clergy, and there’s no clear agreement over how far this extends to employees in teaching roles.

  3. blorf says

    I can see a person hired as a public face for an organization having to toe the party line off duty though, and I think this is how the schools will try to argue this. I mean if PETA hired a spokesperson who subsequently was busted scarfing a burger while on vacation, they would have grounds for firing them. The question becomes how much of this applies to teachers. The school will argue that any deviation from their dogma will tarnish their image.

  4. Psychopomp Gecko says

    You’d think Catholic institutions would be more supportive of a woman who got pregnant without having sex. Good, wholesome abstinence mixed with science’s ability to facilitate virgin births.

    As for the other woman, pregnant out of wedlock? First of all, wedlock sounds like a special section of a prison. “Yeah, we got her in front of a priest, put the ring on her finger, and we have her in wedlock now. Special detail. A real ball and chain, but the ones in wedlock are good for cooking in the cafeteria.” Makes an odd sort of sense given what they try to restrict women to.

    But I belive a man called Jesus had something to say about a woman being persecuted for being a whore. What was it now? I mean, it’s not like it’s in any way a famous saying about judging people and perspective… oh yeah “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” But then, who in the Catholic tradition actually pays attention to that nut?

  5. ismenia says

    Psychopomp Gecko (great name btw) – reminds me of the apocryphal exam howler, “Socrates died of an overdose of wedlock”.

    I’ve heard that the Catholic Church’s doctrine is still technically that a baby conceived in vitro would not have a soul although they keep quiet on that these days since the first test-tube babies are about thirty now. I think they also object to the fact that multiple embryos are created and some will never be used. Never mind that most fertilised eggs fail to implant anyway.

  6. davidhart says

    I’m quite keen to see what they’ll make of the three-parent baby (ie, nuclear DNA from the father, nuclear DNA from one mother, and mitochondrial DNA from the other mother), which I understand is on the cusp of being practically feasible. One and a half souls perhaps?

  7. smrnda says

    I know that the clergy exception or ‘organization image exception’ is pulled out now and then, but I think in a case like this it’s kind of invalid. PETA might dump a spokesperson for the organization for wearing a fur coat while eating a steak, but it would be going to far for them to ditch the person who takes out the trash. The teacher is just too low-level for me to think that argument should apply here. Unless the teacher is teaching church dogma on sexuality, I don’t think they have a legitimate case here.

  8. eric says

    I know that the clergy exception or ‘organization image exception’ is pulled out now and then, but I think in a case like this it’s kind of invalid.

    I think there is another case on this point, that just got decided in favor of the school. Can’t remember the details but I believe the school made every teacher ‘clergy’ so they could officiate at services in case the school needed some extra hands. The judge allowed it.

    I’m in agreement with you, I think its BS. Unless your job description, pay, performance reviews, and raises/promotions are directly linked to performing religious services and counseling, you haven’t been hired as clergy. Lending a hand to help your religious organization on occasion does not make you clergy any more than helping someone change their tire on the side of the road makes you a mechanic.

  9. ethyachk says

    What was said, “…religious freedom does not come with a license to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or disability.”

    How I read it, “…religious freedom DOES NOT come with a license to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or disability.”

    How I suspect the religious read it, “…religious freedom: does not come with a license to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or disability.”

  10. crowepps says

    Be interesting to know if any of the male teachers are cohabitating out of wedlock, or are remarried bigamously using the excuse of a civil divorce the church doesn’t recognize as valid.

  11. NoxiousNan says

    More hypocritical, mysoginistic bullshit from the Catholic church. Are they firing the fat employees due to gluttony? What about unfaithful spouses? And can’t any Catholic be forgiven after confession? Are they only firing these women until they have confessed.

    I agree with smrnda, there’s way too much wrong here to even begin analyzing the Fail.

  12. Didaktylos says

    @davidhart #6

    Go one better – X or Y nuclear DNA from one male, X nuclear DNA from another male, mitochondrial DNA from a woman

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