An Indiana Catholic school teacher has filed a lawsuit against the local Catholic Diocese after being fired because she underwent in vitro fertilization treatments, which were considered against church teachings, according to CNN.
Emily Herx, a former English teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne, IN filed a lawsuit in federal court against the school and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Her complaint states that she was discriminated against back in 2011 after the school's priest discovered that she had commenced fertility treatments.
The complaint also stated that the priest called her a "grave, immoral sinner" and told her that she should have kept quiet because some things are "better left between the individual and God."
In response, the diocese said it "views the core issue raised in this lawsuit as a challenge to the diocese's right, as a religious employer, to make religious based decisions consistent with its religious standards on an impartial basis."
Diocese officials added that "the church promotes treatment of infertility through means that respect the right to life, the unity of marriage, and procreation brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act. There are other infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, which are not morally licit according to Catholic teaching."
According to the diocese, it's teachers must "have a knowledge and respect for the Catholic faith, and abide by the tenets of the Catholic Church."
Back in March of 2010 Hertz immediately told her principal that she began the fertilization treatments. Hertz said that the principal responded by giving her support and saying that she was in his prayers.
However, the tables turned on Hertz when she asked for time off in 2011 to receive a second round of treatments.
Immediately afterwards the school's pastor, Msgr. John Kuzmich, requested a meeting with her, during which Herx said that he told her that it would have been better if she hadn't said anything about the treatments because they could cause a scandal.
Less than 2 weeks later, Herx was notified that her employment contract would not be renewed because of "improprieties related to church teachings or law."
Some believe that this case is similar to the 2004 case involving Cheryl Perich, who was fired from her teaching position at a Michigan religious school after taking a medical leave of absence in 2004.
In that case, the Supreme Court determined that Perich, who taught both religious and secular subjects, was considered a "minister" and thus could be fired based on violating church doctrine.
Herx and her attorney believe that she should be exempt from the "ministerial exception" because she only taught English, never taught religious classes, and never held an official title within the Catholic Church.
Yet, Richard Garnett, a Notre Dame law professor, believes that Herx's decision to undergo fertilization may be viewed as undercutting the school's broader mission to protect their message, and thus she may be out of luck notwithstanding the secular/religious teacherdistinction.
By contrast, Gregory Lipper, senior litigation counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, believes that calling an English teacher a minister is too broad a reading of the ministerial exception.
"If a teacher of purely secular subjects is considered a minister, then the implication of that is that everyone who works for a Catholic school would be considered a minister," Lipper said. "It becomes an open license to discriminate."
I really do not understand why the teacher in this case told her supervisor that she underwent fertilization treatments.
Nevertheless, she did.
As a result, it seems that this case will hinge upon the court's decision to view Herx as a purely secular English teacher or instead as a minister.
I tend to think that the court will defer to the church as court's are always weary to delve into matters of church doctine and policy.
What do you think?
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