Religious organizations and individuals, the Catholic church in particular, put Oliver Twist to shame. Their recent string of legal victories against having to provide contraception coverage to their employees has made them even more greedy about claiming privileges. Molly Redden says that the Catholic church now argues that even having to show up in court to fight a lawsuit is a violation of their religions freedom.
It arose from a case where a teacher in a Catholic school was fired for undergoing in-vitro fertilization treatment that, according to a senior Catholic clergyman, made her a “a grave, immoral sinner”. She sued. That was when the case took an interesting turn.
In response, St. Vincent de Paul School and the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, her former employers, countered with an argument used by a growing number of religious groups to justify firings related to IVF treatment or pregnancies outside of marriage: Freedom of religion gives them the right to hire (or fire) whomever they choose. But the diocese took one big step further. It is arguing that, in this instance, its religious liberty rights protect the school from having to go to court at all.
“I’ve never seen this before, and I couldn’t find any other cases like it,” says Brian Hauss, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Center for Liberty. The group is not directly involved in the lawsuit but has filed amicus briefs supporting Herx. “What the diocese is saying is, ‘We can fire anybody, and we have absolute immunity from even going to trial, as long as we think they’re violating our religion. And to have civil authorities even look into what we’re doing is a violation.’…It’s astonishing.”
What the Catholic church seems to want is to be considered an independent autonomous state within the US, free to act in any way it likes within its walls and subject to no oversight by the legal system.