A jury has awarded teacher Christa Dias
$170,000 in an anti-discrimination lawsuit in Ohio against the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.Dias charged
that the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati and two elementary schools where she taught violated state and federal anti-discrimination
laws by firing her in October 2010 because she was pregnant.
The archdiocese says she was fired because artificial insemination is immoral and violates church doctrine and a contract requiring all employees to "comply with and act consistently in accordance with the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."
In March, U.S. District Court Judge S. Arthur Spiegel refused to dismiss
the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, stating that the Supreme Court's "ministerial shield" ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelic Lutheran Church and School vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al.
did not apply as "defendants here did not hold plaintiff out as minister, they did not give her any sort of religious title or commission, and the congregations of the defendant churches took no role in reviewing” her ministerial skills or responsibilities “because she had none.”
Dias also has claimed
that the church policies are not enforced equally against men and women, as a male former employee who worked in the youth ministry program testified that his wife was artificially inseminated and he was not fired or disciplined.
Dias herself is a lesbian, though her sexual orientation was not considered by the jury in this case, as it was not a stated reason for her being fired. Ohio
does not have protections for private employees on the basis of sexual orientation, but Cincinnati does
This case may be seen as a test for how far religious entities can go in controlling the life activities of their employees.
The archdiocese is expected to appeal.