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Reproductive versus religious rights concerning employment

A matter involving various employment disputes is brewing in Indiana over the firing of a teacher from a Roman Catholic School. The teacher fired alleges that she was let go due to her use of in vitro fertilization to get pregnant. The lawsuit could involve conflicting concerns regarding reproductive rights and religious liberty.

The teacher alleges that the Catholic school conducted discriminatory practices in their decision to fire her. A church pastor working with the school supposedly referred to her as a "grave, immoral sinner." The pastor went onto say that he was concerned about public reaction if the news ever got out that she became pregnant in this manner.

The teacher claims to have received exemplary performance reviews over her eight years of teaching. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church is strongly opposed to the use of in vitro fertilization. The church asserts that such a lawsuit violates its rights as a religious institution to conduct business "consistent with its religious standards."

The conflict between the teacher's rights to not be fired due to a discriminatory purpose as opposed to the claimed rights of the church to make such religious based employment decisions is still an area of law that is unclear. Though certain U.S. Supreme Court cases have indirectly addressed this issue, no case has addressed a matter such as this specifically.

The reason why we retain employment attorneys is because state and federal employment laws are not always easy to understand or interpret. However, each employment matter is fact specific and needs to be heard on its own individual merits. Hopefully the above matter will be decided in such a manner to give future courts guidance on what to do in these particular situations.

Source: The Washington Post, "Dispute over Ind. Teacher's firing should set up showdown over religious, reproductive rights," April 25, 2012

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