Teacher sues Catholic diocese for discrimination

Published April 30, 2012

The Catholic Church is upholding its ban on assisted reproduction and its right to fire non-compliant employees. Photo: Shutterstock

An infertile English teacher fired from a Roman Catholic School in Indiana has launched a discrimination suit in federal court against the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Emily Herx, who underwent in vitro fertilization treatment to conceive, was dismissed last year from Saint Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne for "improprieties related to church teachings or law."

This past February, Pope Benedict reiterated the church’s ban on “arrogant” assisted reproduction and artificial procreation, saying that infertile couples should refrain from any method of conception other than conjugal relations between a legally married husband and wife.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the diocese in violation of Herx’s civil rights through gender and pregnancy discrimination and also in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which designates infertility as a disability.

In her lawsuit, Herx states that, as a teacher of a secular subject unrelated to religious beliefs, she was not required to complete training in the Catholic faith as a condition of her employment and is not a minister of the Catholic Church.

The diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend released a statement asserting its rights as a religious employer. “… the diocese 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.

Herx may be facing an uphill battle. Last January, in the case of a dismissed Lutheran teacher, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld a “ministerial exception” limiting the rights of some employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It ruled that requiring a church or church school to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do, intrudes upon more than employment decisions. “Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs,” the justices wrote.


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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