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Indiana woman's suit against the Catholic diocese to proceed

A woman's claim of sexual discrimination was upheld by U.S. District Judge Robert Miller in Indiana, forcing the Catholic diocese to continue its fight in regards to her firing. The woman was fired for undergoing in vitro fertilization procedures. She was teaching language arts at a Catholic school at the time. After an initial procedure failed, the woman was about to undergo a second procedure when she was informed that it was against Catholic teachings. She was then fired for violating the church's moral standard.

The woman took her case to court, claiming gender discrimination and wrongful termination under Title VII. She claimed that her termination constituted not religious discrimination, which the church is allowed to engage in by the First Amendment, but sexual discrimination. The court said that the judge would be careful to tell the jury not to examine the morality of the church's decision. The jury will not make a judgment on whether the church's stance on in vitro fertilization was right or wrong, only judge whether the woman's termination was an act of religious or sexual discrimination.

An argument could be made that because the practice of in vitro fertilization is by nature a gender-specific action that firing for it could be considered a form of sexual discrimination. A male teacher could not be terminated for the same violation.

Sexual discrimination in the workplace is considered illegal even for religious institutions. By ruling that the woman's termination was a sexual violation, the court has set a precedent. There are not precedent limitations on a religious institution's lawful protections against discrimination suits in Indiana.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "In Vitro Firing Suit Advanced in Indiana", Jack Bouboushian, December 02, 2014

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