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TRENTON, New Jersey (LifeSiteNews) — Catholic schools in New Jersey can continue to require that employees live their lives in accordance with Catholic morality, the state Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision Monday. 

All seven judges on the New Jersey Supreme Court sided with St. Theresa School in Kenilworth, New Jersey, after a nearly 10-year legal battle that stemmed from the school’s firing of former art teacher and toddler caregiver Victoria Crisitello after Crisitello told the school she was pregnant despite being unmarried.

Upon her 2011 hiring, Crisitello had signed the school’s handbook requiring employees to live their lives in accordance with Catholic teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes premarital sex as “gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children.”

READ: Teacher sues Catholic school for firing her over pro-abortion posts on social media

Crisitello, who was fired shortly after revealing that she had become pregnant outside of marriage and was replaced by a woman who was married with children, sued the school in 2014 for allegedly discriminating against her because of her marital status and pregnancy, with Catholic teaching used as a “mere pretext” for the firing, according to court documents.

Crisitello’s case was dismissed twice by a trial court and reinstated twice by the appellate division, NBC reported. St. Theresa’s School appealed the reinstatement, leading the New Jersey Supreme Court to take it up.

In its Monday ruling in Victoria Crisitello v. St. Theresa School, New Jersey’s highest court said the Catholic school was within its rights to terminate Crisitello’s employment for violating Catholic moral teaching.

“Crisitello, a practicing Catholic and graduate of the St. Theresa School, acknowledged that St. Theresa’s required her to abide by the tenets of the Catholic faith, including that she abstain from premarital sex, as a condition of her employment,” the court said.

“In other words, St. Theresa’s required adherence to Catholic law, and Crisitello knowingly violated Catholic law,” the court declared.

Peter Verniero, counsel for St. Theresa School, told Catholic News Agency that the Monday decision was “a significant validation of St. Theresa School’s rights as a religious employer,” praising the court for upholding the “rights of religious employers to act consistent with their religious tenets.” 

“Equally important, the court found no evidence of discrimination in this case,” he said.

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief in support of the Catholic school, told CNA the Monday decision will establish an important safeguard for other Catholic schools in the state.

“This ruling provides Catholic schools in New Jersey with a significant new protection against lawsuits brought by employees who do not follow a school’s code of conduct,” Rassbach said. “As the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized, religious schools have a right to require their teachers to follow their faith in word and in deed.”

He also suggested the case, though pertaining to New Jersey, “will have knock-on effects around the country as a persuasively written decision.”

READ: Federal court sides with Catholic school that fired counselor in same-sex union

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision comes as pro-lifers have raised the alarm about new federal regulations from the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) that could require religious employers to allow their employees to get abortions and use contraception.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had openly supported the act in 2021 for its potential to “make the workplace a safer environment for nursing mothers, pregnant women, and their unborn children.”

This month, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Biden administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), interpreting the PWFA as protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” According to the NPRM, those conditions include “having or choosing not to have an abortion.”

On August 8, Arlington, Virginia Bishop Michael Burbidge, the pro-life chairman for the USCCB, said the bishops’ support of the PWFA had been because of its protections for “pregnant mothers and their preborn children,” and slammed protections for abortion as “the complete opposite of needed assistance for pregnant mothers.” He expressed hope “that the EEOC will be forced to abandon its untenable position when public comments submitted on this regulation demonstrate that its interpretation would be struck down in court.”

Public comment on the proposed regulations opened last week and are slated to conclude October 10. Anyone interested can share their opposition at by clicking here.