FORT WAYNE, Indiana — A northern Indiana diocese has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former schoolteacher who says was fired for trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, arguing exemptions for religious employers precludes it from being sued because decision not to renew her contract was religiously based.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend filed the request for summary judgment Thursday. The Journal Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1vhqQCt) that if U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. does not grant summary judgment, the case would head to mediation or trial.
Emily Herx sued the diocese in spring 2012, saying she was the victim of discrimination when diocesan officials fired her as a language arts teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School after learning she had undergone in vitro fertilization, which is banned under Catholic doctrine. She argues her termination was a violation of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Diocesan officials argue they are protected from her claims as a religious organization. Any enforcement of the Civil Rights Act as it applies to women and pregnancy, or the ADA, are prohibited by those exemptions for religious employers, the diocese argues.
The diocese also contends Herx was a lay "minister" in the church, and therefore her termination was protected by the ministerial exception of those two acts.
"It is undisputed the decision not to renew Herx's contract was religiously based," diocesan attorneys wrote in their motion for summary judgment. "The undisputed facts show that Herx's sex, pregnancy, or disability were not factors in the decision not to renew her contract."
Herx's attorneys argue she was the victim of discrimination because the church did not approve of the manner in which she tried to get pregnant.
"The (Civil Rights Act) must protect the rights of women to attempt to have children through all methods," her attorneys wrote in their response to the motion for summary judgment. "Otherwise, it would allow employers to substitute their judgments for those of their employees' doctors and give them the right to ban certain types of medical procedures."
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net