The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati fired a non-Catholic computer teacher in a parochial school allegedly for violating an employment contract requiring her “to conform with Catholic doctrine, which considers pregnancy out of wedlock through artificial means ‘gravely immoral.’”
Plaintiff, a female non-Catholic, gay, unmarried parochial school computer teacher claimed that she was fired for being pregnant and unmarried. Prior to trial, the archdiocese lost a motion based upon the recognized “ministerial exception,” since Plaintiff was a non-Catholic who taught computer classes and was barred under church rules from teaching religion to her elementary school students. See our previous post on the “ministerial exception.”
A federal jury in Ohio agreed with plaintiff and awarded her $171,000 in damages and back pay.
Her lawyer said after the trial that the evidence was very clear that the “only employees who are disciplined in any way” by the archdiocese for alleged breaches of Catholic doctrine regarding sex outside marriage and pregnancy outside wedlock are pregnant women.
An appeal by the archiocese on the “ministerial exception” issue may be anticipated. Although it would appear that the employee had no involvement in any activity that might invoke the exception, she did have an employment agreement which the archdiocese might raise in an attempt to invoke the exception.