I’m back to the blog after a holiday weekend (and the real start of spring in the NW). I promise to come back to the Donaldson report on adoption but to get started I needed something small and simple. So I’ll start with this story, though in truth I’m not sure where it fits in the grand scheme of things.
Christa Dias was a computer teacher in a Catholic school run by the archdiocese of Cincinnati. She was single and wanted to be a parent. She used assisted insemination to do just that. At some point she told the Archdiocese that she was pregnant and would need maternity leave.
The Archdiocese fired her. It appears its first impulse was to do so because she was pregnant and unmarried–which is not consistent with Catholic teaching. It says that the defendant then learned that this might violate state and federal employment law. (My guess is that this is because you cannot discriminate based on marital status. Thus, if you wouldn’t fire a married woman who became pregnant you cannot fire an unmarried one who does so. Doing this is treating people differently because of marital status.)
But rather than not fire her, the Archdiocese tried to fire her by a different route: It said fired her because she using artificial insemination, which is also against church teaching. Apparently this, too, runs afoul of antidiscrimination laws (but I am not sure exactly which ones) but the Archdiocese tried to justify its decision by invoking the “ministerial exception.”
The key thing to note here is the scope of the “ministerial exception” to general anti-discrimination principles. Churches (and other religious bodies) can discriminate in ways consistent with their principles but inconsistent with general laws if the person will “minister to the faithful.” To take the obvious example, the Roman Catholic Church can refuse to employ women in various positions. This would ordinarily be a violation of non-discrimination laws but clearly falls within the ministerial exception.
The court here held that a computer teacher in a Catholic school doesn’t fall within the exception and so retains the protections of anti-discrimination law. Which takes me back to thinking about the law.
Should you be able to discriminate against people who use AI (as opposed to thosee who become pregnant by intercourse)? Why? Pregnant is pregnant. It’s doubtful that the Archdiocese would have been any happier if Dias had gotten pregnant via intercourse, really, since she wasn’t married. Indeed, it seems to me the core problem is that she was unmarried. Could you/should you be allowed to discriminate based on manner of pregnancy?
In essential ways, the law does discriminate in just that way. So it’s really something to think about.