BioethicsFri Apr 27, 2012 - 8:31 pm EST
Catholic diocese sued by teacher fired for IVF use
FORT WAYNE, Indiana, April 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Catholic teacher in Indiana is suing the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the board of the Catholic school that decided not to renew her teaching contract after learning she was undergoing in-vitro fertilization.
Emily Herx alleged in a U.S. District Court this month that her removal last year from St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School was both a form of sexual discrimination and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a filing obtained by to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on Wednesday.
Herx’s lawsuit alleges that, because she was not an ordained minister nor trained in the Catholic faith as a condition of employment, school officials shouldn’t be protected by federal laws safeguarding the employment rights of religious organizations.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend didn’t immediately return a request for comment from LifeSiteNews.com.
The lawsuit states that Herx suffers from a diagnosed condition that causes infertility, which is considered a disability under the law. Although she alerted employers to the first round of IVF, the school’s principal did not “object, alert Herx to any Catholic teachings or doctrine that might be implicated, or take any disciplinary action against Herx,” according to the lawsuit.
When she asked for more time off for a second round over a year later, Herx was told by the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Chuch that there was concern over the scandal caused by the treatment, and learned shortly after that her contract would not be renewed in a notification that cited “improprieties related to Church teachings or law.” The filing states that Herx “was not trained, informed or warned” about which fertility practices were contrary to Church law.
According to the lawsuit, Herx appealed to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who responded by affirming Catholic teaching that IVF is “an intrinsic evil, which means that no circumstances can justify it.”
Herx argued that she did not destroy any embryos, as is common in IVF, and is seeking compensation for financial losses, emotional distress, and punitive damages. Her lawyer told the Gazette that her client “participated in the [federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s] process in good faith and attempted to resolve the matter without litigation.”
The issue of religious employer rights has become increasingly high-profile in the wake of several conflicts with the Obama administration.
In a January ruling on Hosanna v. Tabor, the Supreme Court sided unanimously against EEOC officials seeking to overturn the ministerial exception, a legal precedent guarding religious groups’ choice of ministers. Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration announced final rules under the health care law mandating religious employers to pay for employees’ birth control, including abortifacient drugs and sterilizations, a move that several organizations have challenged in court, and which was subject to an attempted repeal in Congress earlier this year.
Prior to both, Belmont Abbey College sued the government after Obama officials in 2009 accused the conservative Catholic college of “sexual discrimination” for refusing to cover contraceptives in employee health plans.