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Dias v. Archdiocese
June 4, 2013 5:03 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (103 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
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."

Yeah. I'm sure it's what Jesus would have done.
posted by Jimbob at 5:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Ohio does not have protections for private employees on the basis of sexual orientation

Time to stop making excuses for not voting for ENDA, Sen. Portman. Let the homophobes in Congress start frothing up, but it's shit or get off the pot time.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will have to find the article - but I thought the church's stance was not on the in vitro but with her violation of a "morality" clause and becoming pregnant out if wedlock. Mind you - I find any "morality" justification repulsive and absurd, just trying to keep the facts straight for myself.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 5:30 AM on June 4, 2013


One of the unfortunate social problems with the secular society it that you end up having organizations with broken moral compasses like this one. This bigoted organization needs to oversee its CSR and maybe implement a social awareness program that can guide its members to embrace more ethical, maybe someday even loving, behavior towards all people and not just those who are in favor with senior management.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:34 AM on June 4, 2013


This might have ramifications with the case of Carla Hale, a teacher who was revealed as a lesbian in the mention of a partner in her mother's obituary. She was also fired for violation of a morality clause in the contract. Columbus has a similar law as Cincinnati does, prohibiting the firing of workers due to sexual orientation.
posted by demiurge at 5:37 AM on June 4, 2013


On the one hand, it sucks to lose your job for being who you are - as a lesbian, she had no real way to get pregnant /short/ of artificial insemination. On the other hand, why would you agree to teach at a Catholic school and sign a contract agreeing to abide by Church teachings, then sue when you're actually held to it? Not to mention, "She said she thought the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible." - do real people actually think like this? I mean, the Catholic Church has a thousand-year-history of having extra rules and teachings besides "what's in the Bible."

The ruling also ignores the very real impact on the children - much as it sucks for Dias, I think the Archdiocese acted rightly. The teachers at a Catholic school teach morality as much as they teach their actual subjects. Pregnancy is not exactly something that can be hidden - and marital status is absolutely something that is discussed in Catholic schools, so the kids would know she was not married. This would absolutely be something incredibly shocking, and would seem as if the Archdiocese were condoning the behavior by keeping her in a public position of authority.

I also think though she could have made a very good case for why they shouldn't fire her from a Catholic perspective, because to demonstrate that pregnancy causes catastrophic life events would serve as a motivating factor to terminate pregnancies, thus serving another kind of bad example. (Many Catholic schools have explicit policies in place for unmarried pregnant students for just this reason) But I imagine it's really different for artificial insemination.

The issue of artificial insemination for Catholics is complex, so it's inaccurate to say that it's hypocrisy because the man wasn't disciplined after his wife was artificially inseminated, without knowing the kind of insemination that took place. The relevant doctrine is contained in the "Address to the Fourth International Congress of Catholic Doctors", Pope Pius XII, September 29, 1949, though I can't find an online source with full text. From what I remember, any artificial insemination that introduces "mechanical adultery" by bringing outside semen in is considered very bad, while anything that does it with in-house semen is not great but considered less morally wrong. So married artificial insemination would thus be less condemned than unmarried.
posted by corb at 5:43 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


and the congregations of the defendant churches took no role in reviewing” her ministerial skills or responsibilities “because she had none.”
And that's why we have things like the ministerial exception in the first place. "Congregations ... took no role"? What kind of polity does the judge think the Catholic Church has?
posted by Jahaza at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2013


On the other hand, why would you agree to teach at a Catholic school and sign a contract agreeing to abide by Church teachings, then sue when you're actually held to it?

The upshot seems to be that a contract purporting to give an employer power over its employees' reproductive health shall not be respected by the courts. Good.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


On the other hand, why would you agree to teach at a Catholic school and sign a contract agreeing to abide by Church teachings, then sue when you're actually held to it?

Have you tried finding work as a teacher lately? It's yet another field where you'll happily take what you're offered, because bills and housing and food and shit.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:56 AM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yes, those poor, poor children. Just think of the impact on their moral education.
posted by prefpara at 6:00 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Related: earlier this year, the Cincinnati Archdiocese dismissed an assistant principal because he refused to take down a personal blog post supporting gay marriage (warning: local TV news link).
posted by mean square error at 6:01 AM on June 4, 2013


corb: "The ruling also ignores the very real impact on the children - much as it sucks for Dias, I think the Archdiocese acted rightly. The teachers at a Catholic school teach morality as much as they teach their actual subjects. Pregnancy is not exactly something that can be hidden - and marital status is absolutely something that is discussed in Catholic schools, so the kids would know she was not married. This would absolutely be something incredibly shocking, and would seem as if the Archdiocese were condoning the behavior by keeping her in a public position of authority. "
Thanks for the flashback to the 1950s there.
posted by brokkr at 6:12 AM on June 4, 2013 [30 favorites]


Yeah, this seems to be the right decision. The court structure is under no obligation to abide by the terms of a religious contract, when the relationship between the parties isn't religious. To do otherwise allows for some pretty serious control of the employee's body by the employer.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:13 AM on June 4, 2013


On the other hand, why would you agree to teach at a Catholic school and sign a contract agreeing to abide by Church teachings, then sue when you're actually held to it?

Similarly, why would an organization, even a religious one, ask their employees to sign a contract so inviting for lawsuits? I can imagine several other ways to teach the school's students that the church opposes unwed mothers getting pregnant by artificial insemination without having to fire someone in violation of anti-discrimination laws.
posted by ddbeck at 6:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The teachers at a Catholic school teach morality as much as they teach their actual subjects. Pregnancy is not exactly something that can be hidden - and marital status is absolutely something that is discussed in Catholic schools, so the kids would know she was not married. This would absolutely be something incredibly shocking, and would seem as if the Archdiocese were condoning the behavior by keeping her in a public position of authority.

I went to Catholic from grades 1-8, back in the late '70s, early '80s. In 4th grade one of the teachers got married. In 6th grade she got divorced. We knew this because her name changed in the 4th grade, then changed back to the original name in the 6th. Being kids, we asked why the change. Divorce was given as the answer. Somehow, we managed to survive this "incredibly shocking" event.

It was also known that several of the teachers weren't Catholic and then even some of the students weren't. It wasn't a big deal, the usual reason given was because the person or parents liked the general values of Catholicism. Kids encountering something outside their known world in a school setting doesn't have to be traumatic.

Otherwise, faith is fine, but the structures of that faith shouldn't trump law or basic decency. People who continue to push such dogmatic views are perplexing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


The school could have given her extended maternity leave if they where overly concerned about the naviety of the kids, and yeah given the overly strong male authority orientation of the institution, holding the father to the same standard doesn't seem unwarrented.
Unless there are very sdpecfic exemptions written into secular law, the laws of the State overrule the laws of the Church. Render unto Caesar etc. She was not a Church official, she could not 'speak for the church' therefore she falls squarely under secular laws.

Why is the distinction hard to understand? If the Church wants tho avoid all of that just go back to nuns and clergy teaching everything. Course there have been a lot of American Nuns stirring up shit lately so the church would probably not like that either.
posted by edgeways at 6:26 AM on June 4, 2013


Seeing Mary had a 'virgin pregnancy' could one say perhaps she used IVF?
posted by stormpooper at 6:28 AM on June 4, 2013


Similarly, why would an organization, even a religious one, ask their employees to sign a contract so inviting for lawsuits?

This is a really interesting question, and I think the answer is that there are no real clear answers about employment contracts that require employees to forfeit the protection of the laws. For example, if I'm not mistaken, a lot of employment contracts now require arbitration before court action - even though the law is to allow for court action. Or employment contracts or severance agreements are agreements not to sue the company issuing them, or to forfeit legally mandated overtime pay, etc. And somehow some of those hold up, and others don't, and there seems no real clear legal principle on why some are fine and others are not.

I know the Archdiocese of New York includes a lot of you-will-not-sue-us language when entering into anything, I'm not sure if it's standard language throughout the country or if it's even enforceable, but I think this issue is definitely really ambiguous legally.
posted by corb at 6:29 AM on June 4, 2013


Seeing Mary had a 'virgin pregnancy' could one say perhaps she used IVF?

Immaculate Vision Fertilization?
posted by eriko at 6:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole 'Mary' thing is troubling if you even pretend to read it from a modern viewpoint. Impregnated without consent while engaged to someone else...?
posted by edgeways at 6:33 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The legal principle that distinguishes the various kinds of contracts you mention, corb, is that some rights can be waived and others cannot. This isn't really that ambiguous an issue, legally. For example, you can't waive your right not to be a slave. You can waive your right to a jury trial. If you don't know which rights fall into which category, it can seem confusing, but it's not because the system is just upholding contracts at random without making any principled distinctions. In this case, we're dealing with a right to be free from certain kinds of discrimination. That right can't be waived.
posted by prefpara at 6:35 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the Church wants tho avoid all of that just go back to nuns and clergy teaching everything.

Insufficient numbers, for one thing.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:39 AM on June 4, 2013


Incidentally this finding is very specific to pregnant women. It does not apply to being gay and non-pregnant, because in most states a secular employer could fire you for that.
posted by miyabo at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, why would you agree to teach at a Catholic school and sign a contract agreeing to abide by Church teachings, then sue when you're actually held to it?

An interesting point/question, corb (and gutsy to even raise it around these parts...)

How about: you'd sign it if you think that no one has the right to ask you to sign such a thing/no right to enforce it? Maybe you should refuse to sign such a contract, but maybe you should just think of the contract as if the loony bits weren't even there--if you ask me to agree to something that is partially unreasonable, then you have no right to complain when I ignore the unreasonable parts. Or maybe you should even see signing it and refusing to abide by the crazy bits as something positively good.

OTOH... How is this different from a company insisting that I keep certian information secret? I mean, I have a right to freedom of speech... Can a contract nullify that? If the analogy is decent, is there any way to deny that this is a case of the court basically ruling that the Catholic doctrine in question is unreasonable?
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:43 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it helps, look at the behavior of the employer to try to figure out whether a particular right is likely to be the kind of right you can waive. Owning slaves? Illegal, can't agree to be a slave because we don't care, no slave owners period. Discrimination in violation of federal law? Illegal, we don't care whether there's consent or not, no discrimination allowed ever. Cannibalism? Illegal, don't care if you videotape your dinner happily agreeing to be devoured, no eating humans end of story. Arbitration? Legal!
posted by prefpara at 6:45 AM on June 4, 2013


The legal principle that distinguishes the various kinds of contracts you mention, corb, is that some rights can be waived and others cannot.

Is there a clear-cut differentiation between these? Because I'm thinking specifically, in terms of sexual activity/pregnancy, with for example the infamous General Order Number 1 in Iraq, where military personnel could go to jail, and civilians could be fired or legally charged for engaging in sex, and pregnancy was considered proof positive of that sex.
posted by corb at 6:47 AM on June 4, 2013


You also probably don't want to lump civil employment agreements in with military orders.
posted by prefpara at 6:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Discrimination in violation of federal law? Illegal, we don't care whether there's consent or not, no discrimination allowed ever.

I think it should be acceptable for an employer to demand that employees agree to not carry concealed weapons while at work even though this could be a waiver of their right to do so.
posted by three blind mice at 6:51 AM on June 4, 2013


OTOH... How is this different from a company insisting that I keep certian information secret? I mean, I have a right to freedom of speech... Can a contract nullify that? If the analogy is decent, is there any way to deny that this is a case of the court basically ruling that the Catholic doctrine in question is unreasonable?

Because a company is a private entity and not the government? The Bill of Rights only refers to what the government can do, although some parts require the government (either directly or via clarification by the Supreme Court) to defend rights in the workplace or other non-governmental situations.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:53 AM on June 4, 2013


tbm, I don't follow your hypothetical. It doesn't involve discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or anything else that federal law recognizes as a protected status.
posted by prefpara at 6:53 AM on June 4, 2013


I used to work for a rather liberal Catholic institution. While nothing was written into my contract (although their was a clause about "bringing shame on the institution), during my final pre-hire meeting with my boss's boss, she said "OK, so we don't insist you be Catholic or hold to Catholic beliefs, but you can't openly disparage them to the patrons." I never felt this was constraining, and it seemed fairly sensible -- if I am going to work for a religious organization, the least I can do is not put down their beliefs.

However, as I said, this was a very liberal Catholic institution. A fair number of the employees were openly gay or Muslim, and the institution was very welcoming (there was a room set aside for prayer among other things), but I suppose that someone could decide that being open about those statuses was "disparaging Catholic belief." I would hope, in that case, that a court would enforce that that particular interpretation of the work agreement was in violation with secular law, and they needed to reconsider.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:02 AM on June 4, 2013


I don't follow your hypothetical.

You gave a list of illegal activities that could not be made legal by waiver:

"Owning slaves? Illegal, can't agree to be a slave because we don't care, no slave owners period."

OK sure I get that, but this is something entirely legal - getting pregnant outside of wedlock using IVF - that the Catholic employer wanted the employee to waive in order to present a good moral character to her students. Maybe that's going too far maybe not, but it seems to me to be something that could be negotiable.
posted by three blind mice at 7:02 AM on June 4, 2013


tbm, pregnancy is a federally protected status. It's not legal to discriminate against pregnant women on the basis that they are pregnant.
posted by prefpara at 7:04 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fists O'Fury, you're mixing up Constitutional rights, which prevent the government from acting in certain ways, with (mostly) statutorily created rights of employees, which prevent employers-even private entities-from acting in certain ways toward their employees. Freedom of speech limits the impositions the government can make on speech, but there is generally no corollary that prevents employers from similarly limiting the speech of its employees. There is a little bit of nuance, but that's the general rule.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:06 AM on June 4, 2013


>If the Church wants tho avoid all of that just go back to nuns and clergy teaching everything.

Insufficient numbers, for one thing.


Surely that is a logistical problem for the Church and not something that secular law needs to take into account? I mean, we don't get to break, say, traffic laws merely because they are inconvenient....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:09 AM on June 4, 2013


How many saints in the Catholic church achieved sainthood by firing people?
posted by srboisvert at 7:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


threeblindmice, courts will rarely enforce contracts that purport to bargain away an employee's statutorily protections: pregnancy is given that type of protection in most jurisdictions. And any general 'morals' clause wouldn't be sufficient to waive the protection, as the contract would be construed very narrowly against the employer.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:10 AM on June 4, 2013


Generally they got fired, srboisvert.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:11 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Weirdly enough, this is probably the only issue on which I agree with the Catholic church, though not on weird women-are-bad grounds; I merely think that, instead of spending immense amounts of time and money to create a new person in a heavily over-populated world, women who can't conceive on their own should adopt (and if it's easier to fill out the paperwork on IVF than it is to adopt a child then something is terribly, terribly wrong).

That said, yeah, of course, you should never fire anyone because of their lifestyle choices, unless those choices are, say, to do with a lifestyle in which you murder people or something.
posted by Mooseli at 7:19 AM on June 4, 2013


women who can't conceive on their own should adopt

... this is staggeringly discriminatory against lesbian women, gay men and transgender people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


The whole 'Mary' thing is troubling if you even pretend to read it from a modern viewpoint. Impregnated without consent while engaged to someone else...?

You're thinking of Leda and the Zeus!swan. Mary consents.
posted by gauche at 7:27 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


That said, yeah, of course, you should never fire anyone because of their lifestyle choices, unless those choices are, say, to do with a lifestyle in which you murder people or something.

Well, you do believe in morality clauses then. You're just haggling the price as the story goes.

Mary consents.

Yes, and that's a pretty fundamental part of Christian theology.

. In 4th grade one of the teachers got married. In 6th grade she got divorced. We knew this because her name changed in the 4th grade, then changed back to the original name in the 6th. Being kids, we asked why the change. Divorce was given as the answer. Somehow, we managed to survive this "incredibly shocking" event.

The Catholic Church permits civil divorce for any number of reasons. It's remarriage after civil divorce that gets tricky.
posted by Jahaza at 7:29 AM on June 4, 2013


Without wishing to engage on whether this particular case was decided rightly or not, I want to push back a little against the idea, expressed above, that all morality clauses ought to be unenforceable. That seems to me to be a pretty far-reaching claim. I can easily imagine not wanting, say, an otherwise perfectly competent math teacher who was, in his private time, active in the KKK, to teach my kids. Now, it might be that I don't and shouldn't have the legal right to prevent such a person from teaching my kids, but I'm not sure that's an obviously right position to take. Particularly where, as in this case, a private school is holding up a particular moral environment as part of its marketing. I think there's some room for enforceable morality clauses in here, and the better inquiry is not whether they should be enforceable at all so much as where the line ought to be drawn and why. The fact that you might think IVF is perfectly moral is not, in fact, a good way to go about answering that question.
posted by gauche at 7:39 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


women who can't conceive on their own should adopt

... this is staggeringly discriminatory against lesbian women, gay men and transgender people.


Straight men too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you tried finding work as a teacher lately? It's yet another field where you'll happily take what you're offered, because bills and housing and food and shit.

Look, the Church is being pretty shitty here, but nobody is entitled to work in the field of their choice on the terms of their choice.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:43 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being pregnant is not a term for which an employer can make a case about someone's employment. It's not a matter of entitlement.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


but nobody is entitled to work in the field of their choice on the terms of their choice.

But they are entitled to work in a place that does not discriminate, no matter what the elders in that business believe. The school is a place of business and must comply with all laws that govern that business including not enacting gender specific rules for non-theological employees. Freedom of religion is not freedom to discriminate outside very narrow boundaries. We see this time and time again recently. the Hobby Lobby fracas for example. just because you run a business does not give you a right to extend your beliefs to all your employees and demand they conform to your exact morality to the point of violating secular law. If religious law trumps secular law then they could decide to violate all manner of laws and claim religious freedom. Minimum wage? Well money is the root of all evil right? Gender discrimination? Easy. Slavery? No problem. and so on and so on.
posted by edgeways at 7:53 AM on June 4, 2013


and would seem as if the Archdiocese were condoning the behavior by keeping her in a public position of authority.

Oh, obviously. Because it is well known-that the Catholic church has an established history of firing people immediately when they don't approve of their sexual behavior. They wouldn't for a second keep them in a position of authority.
posted by Killick at 8:02 AM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think y'all have misunderstood the spirit, though granted not the letter, of my comment. Hypothetically everyone should have the *right* to make their very own brand new little babies, but I just think the whole issue of IVF conveniently ignores the issue of over-population and disproportionate resource consumption.

Well, you do believe in morality clauses then. You're just haggling the price as the story goes.

Seriously? You're going to deconstruct my facetious remark about firing people for murder?
posted by Mooseli at 8:05 AM on June 4, 2013


Mooseli: "(and if it's easier to fill out the paperwork on IVF than it is to adopt a child then something is terribly, terribly wrong)."
Fuck, no. IVF is just a medical procedure. Adoption is a complex legal matter involving several independent parties, one of which is a minor.
posted by brokkr at 8:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I totally get what you are saying Mooseli, and agree that there should be fewer people on this planet. But I think it's a separate issue then what this is about. Because restricting who can have babies based on some random social factor is at the heart of the problem being discussed here already. I don't think you really mean to say "only hetero couples who are fertile should be allowed to procreate". Or... are you? Should the only option available for a woman who is lesbian be to have a biological kid is to actually have sex with a man? I doubt that is what you intend, but is more or less the upshot of it.
posted by edgeways at 8:13 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I didn't mean to derail the conversation, which should ultimately be about why it's wrong to fire people for their lifestyle choices/sexuality/crap that has nothing to do with their workplace performance. But "just a medical procedure"? You're not having a mole removed, you're creating an entirely new life when there are real, actual minors in danger of being passed from broken home to broken home until they end up broken adults. Taking care of a newborn is (from what I understand) extremely difficult; why shouldn't it be carefully weighed beforehand? That said, I wish "regular" pregnancies (naturally-occurring) also required a difficult decision-making process beforehand, that way we'd have a lot less unwanted kids and a lot more happy ones.
posted by Mooseli at 8:14 AM on June 4, 2013


But here's the thing; biology is basically a lottery. Whether you can have kids is something that you largely don't control. So if we're going to get into eugenics and forcing a percentage of people to adopt, the fair thing would be to do it by a real lottery.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2013


Edgeways, I am absolutely not saying that same-sex couples should not be able to procreate, and I am *not* a proponent of eugenics, being both an avid LGBTQ ally and a Jew. What I *am* for is the general slowing-down of human population replacement. Not sure why people always find that concept so terrifying. I'm stepping out of this nasty derail; I'll just leave this pamphlet here on my way out.
posted by Mooseli at 8:19 AM on June 4, 2013


I think it should be acceptable for an employer to demand that employees agree to not carry concealed weapons while at work even though this could be a waiver of their right to do so.

False analogy. If an employer forbid members of particular protected demographics the right to carry weapons, while allowing the right to others, that would be comparable.

Look up "protected class."
posted by aught at 8:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


who was, in his private time, active in the KKK
That's why the concept of being a moral person is so hard to put your finger on. Is it fair to say that one group of morals is right and another is wrong?

The KKK is an easy one to spot because they're so extreme, but what if it was a group of people that believed it was okay to segregate based on facial hair, or whether you rented or owned your home.

I mean, I can see logical arguments for hospitals requiring surgeons not to have facial hair due to sterility concerns, and any sort of business would say that renting is not a sound financial decision so people who rent are inferior to those who buy. Are you okay with that type of person teaching your kid math?

If it's good for the goose it's good for the gander. If you say that one group of morals is acceptable, you have to say that they're all acceptable.

Which is why the US legal system isn't based on morals, even though each person is free to have them.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, why would you agree to teach at a Catholic school and sign a contract agreeing to abide by Church teachings, then sue when you're actually held to it? Not to mention, "She said she thought the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible." - do real people actually think like this?

Would it be unreasonable for her to think otherwise? She probably had every reason to believe she would not be fired for being pregnant, seeing how a) that's discrimination, and b) the church seemingly had no problem with her sexual orientation, which also flies in the face of that "think of the Catholic children" moral panic, and c) as stated in the OP, the church had no problem with some dude whose wife was artificially inseminated, and had no action taken against him.

With all that, yeah, I think she has every right to be pretty surprised she got fired, and every right to sue. She's got more than a couple legs to stand on.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I *am* for is the general slowing-down of human population replacement. Not sure why people always find that concept so terrifying.

It's not that people are against slower growth in the abstract, I think, it's that IVF just insn't common enough to significantly impact the growth rate. Births from IVF in the US account for less than 5% of births every year (I want to say it's closer to 1%, but I don't have a cite handy). Reducing the number of people conceiving children as a result of IVF isn't going to impact population growth significantly, but it would significantly and adversely impact the lives of those who would (or could) otherwise have used it to have children that they could not otherwise have had. I would rather those people had the chance to have the family they want.
posted by cjelli at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I *am* for is the general slowing-down of human population replacement. Not sure why people always find that concept so terrifying.

Probably because it involves restricting something humans nearly universally take very personally and seriously as a funamental right of being a living being (including the fact that those who have already had children often knee-jerk consider those arguments a threat to their own children's absolute right to have been born, which protectiveness is a pretty primal emotion).

I'm not saying I disagree about the ongoing and serious problem of human population growth, just that the can of worms you open by starting a conversation about limiting anyone's unrestricted right to have children is crazy-complicated and emotionally-intense beyond almost any other moral or political issue.

That and the track record that many advocates of limiting population growth start by advocating others not have so many children (other religions, other races, the less intelligent, the less economically advantaged, etc.)
posted by aught at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm actually confused on a bit of the legal reasoning here. Take a hypothetical that the employee has some form of IVF that doesn't result in pregnancy (for whatever reason), the church finds out and fires her. My guess is that would be legal because it's not discriminatory based on pregnancy, it seems? If that's the case, then I don't see why (legally, not morally) the church can't use the act of IVF as a reason for firing and ignore the pregnancy part.

Disclaimer: not defending the church, it's pretty morally abhorrent here, but trying to figure out the mechanics.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


kiltedtaco, how would her employer know that she had IVF that didn't result in a pregnancy?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:38 AM on June 4, 2013


Pregnancy discrimination laws will typically encompass "related medical conditions," see the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 for an example. IVF should fall within this.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:38 AM on June 4, 2013


Not sure why people always find that concept so terrifying.
Those are your morals. Others do not necessarily share them with you.

Whether other people's acceptance levels are appropriate are an indication of expectation. As in: you are expecting people to accept your morals unambiguously.

This is the same problem the church had. Draw your conclusions about legally correct from that.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I *am* for is the general slowing-down of human population replacement. Not sure why people always find that concept so terrifying.


Because it is almost always advocated by people who refuse to lead by example and kill themselves.
posted by srboisvert at 8:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we maybe not have the same, tired overpopulation derail again, however tenuously it's related to the OP by proxy because pregnancy?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm kinda with the Church on this one, distasteful as I find it is to admit it. There are any number of Constitutionally-protected activities (e.g., stripping) that teachers might engage in that would be a sideshow and would interfere with the students' education. I can see that educators need to provide a consistent message, which means that expressions of political opinion, even outside school, may also fall into this category.

I can't imagine any rule that distinguishes between different forms of otherwise-protected behavior, so I'm reluctantly forced to defer to schools' right to fire teachers if they say that the teachers' behaviour would interfere with the students' education.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being a stripper is not a protected class. Like, at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


>and would seem as if the Archdiocese were condoning the behavior by keeping her in a public position of authority.

Oh, obviously. Because it is well known-that the Catholic church has an established history of firing people immediately when they don't approve of their sexual behavior. They wouldn't for a second keep them in a position of authority.
posted by Killick at 4:02 PM on June 4 [4 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


That's what's angering me the most about this post. That they would fire her, to protect the poor innocent children. Rather than, say, allowing her to stay in post, moving her to a different school or even promoting her. To give a tiny, tiny proportion of examples of how the Church didn't give a rat's ass about morality or children, across the world, when it suited them not to.
posted by billiebee at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can see that educators need to provide a consistent message,

then... again... they need to exclusively staff with priests and nuns, if they are unable to meet the demand they have to either restrict the number of students, or allow those outside of the church to perform those activities and be held to the laws of the state. You don't get to pick and choose.
posted by edgeways at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are any number of Constitutionally-protected activities (e.g., stripping) that teachers might engage in that would be a sideshow and would interfere with the students' education.

Sure, yeah, stripping in class would interfere, but I'm not down with companies being able to police what you do when you're not on the job. If your hobby is cannibalism, it's the police and judges who should be dealing with that, not your boss.
posted by jeather at 9:35 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


If the Church wants tho avoid all of that just go back to nuns and clergy teaching everything.

Luckily, all of the female teachers are celibate anyway, since popping out a kid every 1-3 years would interfere with their teaching duties and contraception is, of course, against the teachings of the Catholic Church...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:12 AM on June 4, 2013


Jeather wrote: Sure, yeah, stripping in class would interfere, but I'm not down with companies being able to police what you do when you're not on the job.

Yes, I agree. But in fact teachers have been fired for stripping or working as models after hours, and I can understand why schools would do that. I'd expect adults to compartmentalise teachers' professional and after-hours lives, but it's not realistic to expect teenagers to do so.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2013


Look, the Church is being pretty shitty here, but nobody is entitled to work in the field of their choice on the terms of their choice.

Up to a point, but only up to that point. If she refused to teach on Tuesdays, the school would be reasonable and within its rights in telling her to take a hike. But terms like being paid at least minimum wage (with exceptions, etc...) and freedom from discrimination (including gender and pregnancy) are nonnegotiable.

We make a limited exception for religious institutions, which I agree with. As much as I disagree with the Catholic Church, it would be wrong for a US court to order a religion to ordain female priests against its will. The question here is how far down that exception goes on the continuum from Archbishop to parish priest to janitor at a Catholic hospital.
posted by zachlipton at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2013


edgeways wrote: they need to exclusively staff with priests and nuns, if they are unable to meet the demand they have to either restrict the number of students, or allow those outside of the church to perform those activities and be held to the laws of the state. You don't get to pick and choose.

What's the difference between an employee who promises to follow the dictates of the church, and a nun who promises to follow the Rule of her order? Why would it be cool to fire the nun for breaking her promise, but not the secular employee? And if it's not OK to fire either one then you have the same problem you started with.

I'm not a Catholic and in the school's situation I would have behaved so, so differently, but there are a zillion similar cases and without a clear-cut rule you will end up litigating every single one - and you will still end up with employees who are evidently inappropriate teachers but are impossible to fire.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, don't turn this into some generic Catholic-bashing thread. Have a real conversation here with real people. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2013


“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
-Gandhi
Or that could have been Lincoln. I'm not sure any more. The internet's a very weird place.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2013


I don't understand how Catholic schools with this kind of intolerance for humanity don't have to fire every single teacher. We are ALL sinners and will sin again and again according to Catholic doctrine.

Neither I nor my wife are religious but my wife works at DePaul University, a Catholic school, that has chosen service as its core value. It's incredibly inclusive across faiths, lifestyles and social classes and this isn't just in terms of mere tolerance. It actively seeks out oppressed people, groups and lifestyles to help. There is very little evidence of it being a religious school. No icons. No crosses everywhere. No Catholic rules. Yet it does a better job of embodying the supposed core Catholic values than any other place I have seen. It is sad that this seems like such an exception to the actions of the larger church.

I was a bit worried DePaul would get stomped on while the previous pope was in power because they deviated so much from the church organization's recently stated core objectives of pushing the culture war. Fortunately the current pope at least seems more inline with the school's position.

(Interestingly, DePaul was founded to counter religious discrimination against Catholics who were at the time excluded along with some other religious groups from other Chicago universities. )
posted by srboisvert at 11:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


jessamyn, I don't think anyone is bashing the Catholic Church per se. It's just that the post highlights the hypocrisy of how they have acted towards this person, versus how they have acted in other instances where children were actually at risk, i.e. the wholesale covering up of sexual abuse. Personally I find it hard to comment on one without mentioning the other. It's reprehensible that they fired her for a personal life choice. I'm not sure its 'bashing' to point out that they have done other reprehensible things that make this decision look especially two-faced? Or to point out that their attitutde to women in general isn't known for being enlightened?


(I say this as a Catholic who’s mother is no doubt sensing the criticism from miles away and lighting a candle for my soul as we speak…)
posted by billiebee at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's good for the goose it's good for the gander. If you say that one group of morals is acceptable, you have to say that they're all acceptable.

No, actually, I don't have to say any such thing. That's why we have second-order principles: to help us sift out when and how to tolerate competing sets of first-order principles. Committing to the notion that all moral frameworks are equally acceptable is, in fact, logically impossible, insofar as the set of all moral frameworks includes frameworks which make mutually exclusive claims both about exclusivity and about specific moral questions. People can (and, I think, should) coexist even while holding different and competing moral frameworks, but even advocating for such coexistence amounts to the privileging of one particular value (tolerance) over others.

Even if you try to hold, as your principle, that all morals are equal, and that everybody should be free to follow their morality as they see it, you can't resolve the question of this case by reference to that principle. The set of "everybody" obviously includes the employer, and the employer, obviously, believes it is morally wrong to put into a position of authority over its students a teacher who has underwent IVF. But the employer in this case, it turns out, is not legally able to take action to correct what it believes is a moral wrong that is taking place in its own workplace. So obviously not everybody is able to follow their morality as they see it. Compromises abound, and it's not always obvious in advance where those compromises should be made.

I'm not taking a position on the case one way or another, but the idea that it is somehow unproblematic to treat competing moral frameworks as though they were equivalent is logically unsupportable. This is a complicated question, and to suppose that there is some kind of amoral stance by which the law, and people, can act evenhandedly amounts to a bootstrapping problem.

If the school in this case were to have won their argument, that would emphatically not mean that the State has established Catholic Moral Teaching as the law of the land. It would mean that the State determined that a particular relationship between private persons was enforceable at law. We can all analogize this relationship different ways (KKK, facial hair, &c.) but this question is only remotely about the content of any particular morality at all. It's about an employment contract, and what an employer can and cannot expect their employees to do.
posted by gauche at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I mean, I can see logical arguments for hospitals requiring surgeons not to have facial hair due to sterility concerns, and any sort of business would say that renting is not a sound financial decision so people who rent are inferior to those who buy. Are you okay with that type of person teaching your kid math?

If it's good for the goose it's good for the gander. If you say that one group of morals is acceptable, you have to say that they're all acceptable.
"

That's nonsense. We can and do adjudicate between competing moral claims all the time. The idea that if we say one set of morals is acceptable, we have to say they all are is absurd. We can even decide which parts of a morality claim are reasonable, which are related to the job at hand, and which are protected out of a broader public good.

And hey look, we've actually done so in the case that this FPP is about! In this case, the system works!

(Sorry, I just get frustrated with people who do the bizarro-relativist "These claims are subjective, therefore equal!" foolishness.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually klangklangston, I thought Blue_Villiain was trying to make a point that you might agree with: that our laws shouldn't be based entirely on morality alone, since morality is so arbitrary. Now, there's no denying that a number of our law are based on morality alone, but I'd argue at least that this is wrong.

It's important to consider the idea of morality "alone," though; clearly many of our laws have moral bases: it's illegal to rob, assault, kill, etc., and absent unusual circumstances, these acts are typically considered immoral as well: but they also are based on the principle on preventing harm to other people (I suppose you can say that preventing harm is a moral principle too...).

But I'd like to distinguish laws that claim to be rooted solely in morality: it's hard for me to think of examples that aren't out and out prejudicial, really.

Maybe I have Blue_Villain's point all wrong and Blue_Villain is making some kind of moral relativism argument, but I don't think so. I interpret the argument to mean that when you purport to anchor your laws just in morality, you risk making them arbitrary and unfair.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2013


If the school has a duty to retain her then it also has a right to provide her with a non-hostile environment. How can they do this while simultaneously teaching traditional Catholic views on marriage and reproduction? I know that I would have felt oppressed if (before Vatican 2) my school had had prayers for the conversion of the perfidious Jews, or whatever the term was. There's just a whole can of worms here, and the only two clear answers I see are deferring to the schools' judgment on these things, or effectively banning sectarian schooling.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not quite how it works. "Hostile environment" refers to actual harassment. Employers are obligated by law to address and prevent harassment by coworkers, and they're also prohibited from harassing employees themselves. The legal definition of "harassment" doesn't (and shouldn't, at least in my view) extend to "generally espousing views that your employees may disagree with or find generally offensive."

There's more nuance to it than that, but that's the thrust of it. So even if an employee may feel oppressed because her employer teaches traditional Catholic values on marriage and reproduction, she's not working in a hostile environment (at least in the sense that carries any legal meaning). There are, of course, lines that cannot be crossed-as the Archdiocese found in this case.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: What's the difference between an employee who promises to follow the dictates of the church, and a nun who promises to follow the Rule of her order? Why would it be cool to fire the nun for breaking her promise, but not the secular employee? And if it's not OK to fire either one then you have the same problem you started with.
Well, for one: the Constitution distinguishes between employment and religious beliefs. A teacher is an employee; a "nun" is a religious designation.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I want to push back a little against the idea, expressed above, that all morality clauses ought to be unenforceable….the better inquiry is not whether they should be enforceable at all so much as where the line ought to be drawn and why”

I think the burden of specificity should be on the hiring body. It should differentiate contractually between what is illegal and what is merely extreme. Otherwise the risk is legally validating the hiring body’s moral directive.

Are there parents who don’t want their kids taught by Cindy Sheehan? (she was a youth counselor for the Catholic church) I suspect there are.

“women who can't conceive on their own should adopt
... this is staggeringly discriminatory against lesbian women, gay men and transgender people.”

Um, and straight women who can’t conceive on their own.

“I just think the whole issue of IVF conveniently ignores the issue of over-population and disproportionate resource consumption.”

As opposed to what, the Duggars?
I’m with you on slowing down, and zeroing out, human population growth. But IVF isn’t the place to start.

em>“My guess is that would be legal because it's not discriminatory based on pregnancy, it seems? If that's the case, then I don't see why (legally, not morally) the church can't use the act of IVF as a reason for firing and ignore the pregnancy part.”

If Eli Manning has a contract with Nike and he’s walking around sporting Reeboks, that might be a “morals” clause thing.
Here, I don’t know. Is Dias endorsing a rival church’s beliefs to the commercial detriment of the Catholic church?
In many ways morality clauses are ambiguous by design.

“however tenuously it's related to the OP by proxy because pregnancy?”
I think it’s integrally related. The question is not one of choice but of imposition and what limits that imposition has as it concerns the line between legal and moral.

The government can, in some ways, control population growth as long as it’s not on a discriminatory basis. They can, as they have, teach sex ed, hand out condoms, etc. They can’t go to one person and say specifically - you - have to use birth control (thus far).
The government can, and has although thankfully to less and less a degree, enforce public morals laws. Blue laws for example, but also pornography, gambling, etc.
And while that can get complex, the issue of what private entities can do is a different question, but related.

The argument is that certain rights are unalienable and some can be ceded contractually to a private concern, such as a corporation or in this case a church.

So Nike could tell Manning he can’t wear Reeboks, but couldn’t tell him he can’t knock up his wife if he wants to stay a sponsor.

Although some early sports and film stars had those kinds of contracts – for example, keep your marriage a secret, stay closeted, don’t drink in public, etc. etc.

On the other hand in some ways it’s gotten tighter, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were seen drunk, drinking, etc. - it would be almost unthinkable now to see a ball player having a beer at the game. (There’s even been some outrage over drinking in the clubhouse)
But the difference between getting fired for a morals violation and not has always remained pinned to success on the field.

This too seems like just an excuse rather than a genuine concern. What if she wasn’t a lesbian? What if she wasn’t single? What if she didn’t get pregnant?
I doubt she would have been fired merely for the act of seeking IVF if she was found out - which is entirely possible if she's taking time off for it and submitting it through her insurance (and HR is willing to violate privacy laws).

But even given, I don't think they could legally fire her. It would still be unlawful discrimination. For example, it's illegal to fire someone for taking time off for an IVF treatment.
There's no legal difference between someone who is pregnant and someone undergoing IVF. At least (in the 7th Circuit) for 14 days after implantation.

So yeah, the church would lose either way.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:25 PM on June 4, 2013


I attended a Catholic High School in the early 1970s where they had one teaching Brother who EVERYONE KNEW was a pedophile, the only reaction to which was the students warning each other to stay away from him outside of class time. The Catholic Church's education system has ZERO moral standing with me.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being a stripper is not a protected class. Like, at all.

The thing is, we can absolutely have a discussion about, "Legally, was this decision right" and that is a fair discussion to have. But we can also have a discussion about, "Morally, was this decision right", and that is also a fair discussion to have.

Legally, we establish some protected classes and not others. But is that morally fair? Is it right? Is it right to apply those laws to this instance? Those are the questions I'm interested in addressing.
posted by corb at 4:38 PM on June 4, 2013


It's just really useful when we have those discussions to be absolutely clear whether we're talking about a perceived moral right/wrong or a perceived legal right/wrong, since it's very confusing when the distinction is not clear.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:54 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's just really useful when we have those discussions to be absolutely clear whether we're talking about a perceived moral right/wrong or a perceived legal right/wrong, since it's very confusing when the distinction is not clear.

That, and the legal discussion is the one we can usefully have. A moral discussion on this, that's a whole other ball of wax.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it right to apply those laws to this instance?
A stripper is as free to get IVF as anyone else and not be discriminated for it. A protected class is predicated on something you can't help being and extensions of that identity.
If you're a woman, you can get pregnant.
If you're a transwoman, you can use the ladies'
And so on.
You don't have to be a stripper. That is not an identity, but a job.
Dias is a woman. Dias' job is being a school teacher.
Dias can give up being a school teacher, but she can't give up being a woman. It's who she is. And women can get pregnant.
That supercedes being a auto mechanic, CEO, lawyer, whatever.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:11 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, familial status and religion are things a person can (at least in theory) change about themselves but discrimination on those bases is still a violation of the Civil Rights Act.
posted by gauche at 8:36 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


At best, the Catholic Church is a PAC; at worst, they are a criminal organization using the auspices of their faith to justify their stance that they are above the law.

Religious freedom is the right to be free to practice your religion, not to impose your value system on society at large.
posted by reenum at 9:04 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


But we can also have a discussion about, "Morally, was this decision right", and that is also a fair discussion to have.

What's to discuss? The decision to fire Dias was morally wrong and done by members of an organization that has a history of being morally wrong, covering up that moral wrong while proclaiming how moral it truly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2013


To be clear, Catholicism and its members aren't universally bad, but the administrators of the Church have made flatly wrong decisions on a number of issues. These decisions actively work to suppress certain groups of people (women and gays) and deny them rights given to others. That is not acceptable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 AM on June 5, 2013


What's to discuss?

Nothing, really. Discussions about "was that morally right?" are ultimately going to end with, "Well, if you subscribe to this particular tenet of the Catholic faith, yes. Otherwise, ¯\(°_o)/¯" I can't think of a less worthwhile discussion to have, apart from which Oasis album is the worst or who makes the best bologna.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there can absolutely be moral discussions about the morality of how we force other people to interact with faith, without necessarily getting into debating the morality of a particular faith.

For example: is it moral to force a religious order to behave opposite to their conscience?
is it moral to act against someone for a thing they cannot help?
is it moral to fire someone for getting pregnant?
is it moral to break a contract?
is it moral to break a contract and then sue?
Should we only have protected classes based on things people were born into?
posted by corb at 6:51 AM on June 5, 2013


But it's not the question here. It's the legality. The church can believes what it likes so long as it obeys the law, period. Moral questions about this situation seem like pointless wheel-spinning.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Religious freedom is the right to be free to practice your religion, not to impose your value system on society at large.

But the claim that there is nothing immoral about IVF is a claim that comes out of a value system, and it's a claim that it seems like the law is imposing on a member of society at large (i.e., the archdiocese in this case). Being free to practice one's religion surely includes not being compelled by law to perform acts which that religion says are wrong, no? According to Catholic moral teaching, a school that employs in a position of authority (i.e., a teacher) a person who is openly acting in a way contrary to the religion of the school may in fact be committing a sin by ratifying or appearing to ratify that person's actions in the eyes of the students.

(I happen to think that the sin of scandal is over-relied-upon by conservative Catholics, but it is nevertheless a real part of what the Church teaches.)

That's not to say the case wasn't decided the right way, but it is to say that this is a poorly-formed principle for deciding the case. It's a nice principle, and a comforting one because it allows people to imagine that there is an even-handed way to settle disputes between sensible people and nutty religious cranks. But the reality is that a judgment arising out of a moral value system (i.e., the judgment that there is nothing wrong with IVF) is being imposed on a member of society who lives according to a different moral system. The reality of secularism is that sometimes this happens, and it's not the end of the world, but it is a form of majoritarian politics.
posted by gauche at 6:57 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't think of a less worthwhile discussion to have, apart from which Oasis album is the worst or who makes the best bologna.

Which Oasis album does the Catholic Church think is the best?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 AM on June 5, 2013


Being free to practice one's religion surely includes not being compelled by law to perform acts which that religion says are wrong, no?

I think most legal decisions are based on the mechanics of making a non-suicidal society.

While it might be debatable whether the state can allow, for example, two parents who believe in "faith healing" to let their kids die of pneumonia - and to be clear, in the reality check, the state doesn't - that is, it might be debatable whether it's an encroachment on religious freedom, it is not debatable whether the state can regulate public health.

So you have the state saying "no, you have to take your kid to the doctor if they have pneumonia." That's grounded in A. legal matters taking precedence over religious matters - and so, yes, perhaps it's a denial of religious freedom in some ways. And subject to a moral debate.
But B. society has a right to protect itself (and by extension, its single members) from dying.

You could not, for example, allow the faith healing folks to spread typhus and dysentery because that is, ultimately, a suicidal course for a society.

The taking of lives aside, it's a matter of control vs. no control.

Contrast this with the Aztecs (and other Mesoamericans) blood sacrifice. Whether it was state or religious driven or driven to control population - whatever the genesis of it - it was controlled. In that case by ritual. Whether it was genuinely tethered to reality or not (there are benefits to population control, but perhaps better ways to achieve it than cutting people's hearts out.)

So it's not a case of legal rituals trumping religious rituals, but assertion of control where control is being abdicated.

The Catholic church here, ultimately, is saying "IVF doesn't exist." Not literally of course, but in the sense that they refuse to accept it. And therefore refuse to detail controls over it.

We're speaking of something that hasn't existed in the past and so there's been no legal or moral need to address it.
The church refuses.

The state has said "well, it exists now. So we're going to outline the rules for it."

Those rules don't encroach on the Church's abdication of the matter, in that, the state isn't pushing IVF on individuals who don't want to have them.

The Church's position isn't cogent. The state's is. (I mean cogent literally as in the power to constrain by its own foundation).
It is only after that understanding that, that any moral framework enters the picture.

Murder is always immoral, but the state asserts the power to legally kill you under certain conditions (war, death penalty, resisting police, etc), for example.

So consider - the Catholic church holds that the death penalty is morally wrong. So do a number of people in society.
However the arguments that have made the most headway are those that state the death penalty is applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion.

I know it's a tough one to shake out. But not all state concerns have a moral basis or are driven by society.
Since the inception of civilization there's been the need to recognize what *is* rather than what people believe should be.
And I mean that in very primitive terms. Agriculture and hunting requires specific and concrete techniques.
It's only when there's a food surplus that we start getting divisions of labor and have the luxury of abstractions.
But the foundation of the state lay in the roots of how to best deal with the reality of life on Earth such that we don't die.

Dias' case - by definition - is a matter of labor. Regardless of any abstractions that follow.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:56 AM on June 5, 2013


The Catholic church here, ultimately, is saying "IVF doesn't exist." Not literally of course, but in the sense that they refuse to accept it. And therefore refuse to detail controls over it.

You're using the term "control" in a way I'm not familiar with and not sure how to respond. It seems to me that forbidding something, either wholesale or in certain circumstances, is indeed exercising a form of control over that thing and not at all like saying the thing doesn't exist. Can you elaborate what you mean?

For what it's worth I agree with you that some concerns such as public safety do indeed and very probably should trump personal freedom (which includes religious freedom), although I'd point out that this too is not an absolute principle but a pragmatic balance between competing values.
posted by gauche at 8:24 AM on June 5, 2013


Brandon Blatcher: Which Oasis album does the Catholic Church think is the best?
I assume it's Don't Believe the Truth.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:30 AM on June 5, 2013


“Can you elaborate what you mean?”

Once the Church, or anyone, takes it as a given that ‘X’ is wrong it follows that anything stemming from ‘X’ is wrong.

So it’s a moot point. So if IVF is wrong, there’s no need to go into detail as to how to deal with situations concerning IVF.

The state on the other hand details how employers are to deal with it, how hospitals deal with it, etc. So the whole gamut of insurance coverage law, disposition of embryos, factors concerning age, regulation of profit and paternity and genetic diagnosis, etc. etc.
Same sex couples or unwed mothers – how does one treat them if they want IVF? For the church, that’s a simple answer since they don’t recognize any of those things as valid. So detailing anything past that isn’t a concern for them.

For the state though, they need to control things that result from that. Such as the status of a person conceived by donation, their rights in learning about their biological parent donor, the biological parent donor’s rights, etc. etc.

I guess what I’m saying here is – even given an equity between the power of the church and the power of the state (which doesn’t exist in the U.S., but let’s pretend here the church has some kind of power to issue dicates with force) – there’s a blank space. There’s no control, from the church perspective, in how to deal with what happens once an IVF occurs. There’s no procedure. No guidelines. Etc. So no control - regardless of the argument of whether it should exist or not.

“I'd point out that this too is not an absolute principle but a pragmatic balance between competing values.”


Only because it accepts, then ignores accepting, survival as a given.

There are physical laws and laws created by humans which are the foundation of civilization – call them civilization laws – and then there are the laws which are created by the details stemming from either of those two – call them procedural.

Culture, values, etc, inform the laws of civilization and they can be changed, reconfigured, etc.
Physical laws are constant regardless of human interaction.

Some laws are purely based on one or the other but they all stem from observation of physical law. The sun will rise tomorrow no matter what, so how do we get along with each other until then?

However some laws are more pure and derive authority from physical realities. For example health codes.

A good example is the contrast between burying the dead and not defecating where you eat/ washing your hands after you do.

There are social taboos on both. There are religious rituals for burying the dead. And yet, keeping food and water separate from feces kills more people than an unburied body.
Haiti as a good example. There were plenty of good people there. Many of them religious and all of them well intentioned, who were very gung ho about burying the dead.
But dead bodies are not as much of a health problem as making sure cholera doesn’t spread.

In fact, one of the main reasons you pull dead bodies out of water, etc. is because they can leak feces.

None of the rituals we have, none of the laws on burial, do as well in protecting people from epidemics as the “wash your hands” mandates from public health departments, for example, to food service.
And yet, people treat funerals and the need for them with far more reverence.

Point being- regardless how committed one is to personal freedom, there are no principles that will protect you from physical laws.

Some of the laws of civilization sit on values, but some are rooted in physical law – they’re just not as obvious to laymen.
So while one can argue, quite validly, about fairness and competing values about some laws and the equity of their enforcement, others are incontestable in their resulting penalties.

Ingest something with the cholera bug, you will get sick and you may die. Nature will kill you and there’s nothing man can say about it no matter how committed one is to a given principle.
So those kinds of laws try to recognize the reality of it and act accordingly.
What I’m saying is, it’s only once those are established that we can negotiate over principles.
And there are some who try to – and demonstrably have – argue against those kinds of laws, but they’re not in the same class, despite being asserted by the same authority.

So there again, it’s about control. Any church might strenuously object to prioritizing sanitation over dignity for the dead on a moral basis. But the reality is that there would not be anyone living to hold any moral position in the first place, unless acts that ensure survival are given priority.

Survival is an absolute. The value of survival is negotiable. But the state derives its authority from living participants*. It’s only the church that lays claim to the dead.

(*Cook County voting roles notwithstanding)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:30 PM on June 6, 2013


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