INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana teacher who says she was fired from a Roman Catholic school for using in vitro fertilization to try to get pregnant is suing in a case that could set up a legal showdown over reproductive and religious rights.
Emily Herx's lawsuit accuses the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and St. Vincent de Paul school in Fort Wayne of discrimination for her firing last June. Herx, 31, of Hoagland, Ind., says that the church pastor told her she was a "grave, immoral sinner" and that a scandal would erupt if anyone learned she had undergone in vitro fertilization, or IVF.
The Roman Catholic Church shuns IVF, which involves mixing egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and transferring a resulting embryo into the womb. Herx said she was fired despite exemplary performance reviews in her eight years as a language arts teacher.
Legal experts say Herx's case illustrates a murky area in the debate over separation of church and state that even the U.S. Supreme Court has failed to clearly address.
Diocese officials said in a statement issued to The Associated Press on Wednesday that the lawsuit challenges its rights as a religious institution "to make religious based decisions consistent with its religious standards on an impartial basis."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in January that religious workers can't sue their employers for job discrimination because anti-discrimination laws allow for a "ministerial exception." But the justices failed to define who was and who wasn't a religious employee.
"The Supreme Court didn't give us a kind of neat little on-off test as to who's a minister and who isn't," said Rick Garnett, associate dean and professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.
In a similar case in Ohio, a federal judge last month gave the go-ahead for a trial in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati by a parochial school teacher who was fired after she became pregnant through artificial insemination, which the church is also against. The archdiocese fired Christa Dias in 2010, saying the single woman violated church doctrine.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spiegel said in his March 29 ruling that the ministerial exception did not apply because Dias was a non-Catholic computer teacher with no role in ministering or teaching Catholic doctrine.
Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul School, Huffington Post 33 Comments
[5/1/2012 3:21:39 AM]
Fundie Index: 42
Submitted By: Brendan Rizzo
Baby Jesus cries when you spooge in a tube.
5/1/2012 3:37:02 AM
Every time something like this comes up all that any 'church' says only translates as 'WAHH! We can't have iron fist control over a womans body anymore! WAAHH!' to me.
5/1/2012 3:42:08 AM
Every good Catholic wife should know the only way to get pregnany is sex with your husband in the dark in missionary position. Every sexual act must result in conception. And you better not enjoy it. If you do, you're a whore.
5/1/2012 4:22:09 AM
Oh FFS! They will fire a woman who is trying to get pregnant with her husband, but spend years trying to cover up a pedophile priest that fondles little boys. This is more fucked up than I can express in words.
5/1/2012 4:26:34 AM
I will try to put this as delicately as I can...
FUCK THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH!!! Have nothing to do with them. Don't be employed by them, don't give them money, don't give them power of any kind. Isolate them into an island of their own wacky followers. Then when the paritioners start dying out and can't replace themselves fast enough, the RCC will simply dry up and diminish like a pimple.
5/1/2012 5:23:26 AM
So becoming "heavy with child" without "knowing" a man is a sin?
5/1/2012 5:30:07 AM
Why do these people think the Catholic church is going to be even slightly reasonable about these things?
5/1/2012 5:46:02 AM
Last I checked Paul had quite the anti-sex attitude so you'd think the Catholic Church would embrace in vitro as a better alternative than all that icky sex. You can even get pregnant without having a dirty, sinful orgasm that way. What's the actual problem with it? Aside from "it's different so it's scary to us".
5/1/2012 5:52:25 AM
I HATE YOU RATZINGER!!!!
5/1/2012 6:20:55 AM
So much for claiming that this issue is all about religious freedom. Unless they admit that it's about the religious freedom to be total dickheads.
Good thing the church wasn't against IVF before Mary miraculously conceived Jesus.
5/1/2012 6:38:44 AM
"...Herx's case illustrates a murky area in the debate over separation of church and state that even the U.S. Supreme Court has failed to clearly address."
This, this right here, this is the problem. I'm not about to claim everything here is sunshine and roses, but if anyone here were to be fired because their employer did the equivalent of wagging their finger at them and calling them a "very naughty girl/boy", they would be pulverised. I mean sweet Celestia, the last time I checked the USA wasn't a theocracy, but while it is fantastic by global standards if it wants to stay a developed nation it needs get its act together, fast.
And they should also be ready for sex at any time the husband requires, and if they defy their husbands will they are shaming themselves in the eyes of God. (am i doing it right?)
5/1/2012 6:58:46 AM
See, they are opposed to not only abortion, but also to in-vitro fertilization, which is the very opposite of abortion. When you add in their dislike of contraceptives, it only means one thing: the Catholic Church only wants sexual intercourse to be done if it will result in an army for Christ. The higher-ups never left the Middle Ages, and most likely never will
5/1/2012 7:00:59 AM
Don't care what their religious justification is. A business operating in the United States needs to abide by its employment rules. Period.
5/1/2012 7:41:45 AM
No abortion, no IVF, no birth control. Sorry women but the RCC's policy has been the same for you as it has since the Roman Empire. You exist to get married so you can spend your life shitting out more Catholics so the church can have more believers, and thus more money and power.
And that's about the sickest, most evil thing I can imagine.
5/1/2012 7:50:38 AM
Catholics oppose abortion because it stops women having babies they don't want.
Catholics oppose IVF because it helps women to have babies they do want.
They damn you if you do and they damn you if you don't.
5/1/2012 9:56:50 AM
Catholics are outspoken against every sexual act that does not result in pregnancy, and now every non-sexual act that does.
Trying to make sense of that.
5/1/2012 10:05:57 AM
Filin De Blanc
I'm inclined to think that there shouldn't be a ministerial exception at all. Being religious should not effectively place you above the law.
5/1/2012 10:06:03 AM
I don't see why they should have the right to fire someone over a personal matter like this, but I also don't understand why one would want to work for an organization who would fire you over a personal matter.
5/1/2012 10:17:34 AM
Uh, she was trying to become pregnant. Isn't that what the Catholic Church wants? Why are they so upset about this?
5/1/2012 11:59:40 AM
Now that IS fucked up.
5/1/2012 12:12:42 PM
... the church pastor told her she was "a grave, immoral sinner" ...
As contrasted, I take it, with a whimsical, moral sinner.
5/1/2012 1:38:26 PM
@ Weskamp: I think the problem is that you apparently have to use MULTIPLE ova to ensure that you get a zygote out of the procedure. If more ova get fertilized than you can safely imbue in the uterus, it's effectively abortion. THAT'S probably what has the Diocese incensed.
5/1/2012 2:15:32 PM
this is another good example to bring this Monty python song up again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0kJHQpvgB8 enjoy :P
5/1/2012 4:01:43 PM
Murky area is right. The Catholic Church is stuck in the 16th century but they may have the Constitution on their side in this one as depressing as that sounds.
5/1/2012 5:35:52 PM
So, they cry and whine about stem cell research because it makes use of frozen embryos that were going to be discarded, but when somebody tries to use the same method that was used to create those frozen embros to get pregnant, they've committed a "grave, immoral sin"?
5/1/2012 5:52:12 PM