Catholic Church Argues It Doesn’t Have to Show Up in Court Because Religious Freedom

Nov 25, 2014

Evandro Inetti/ZUMA

By Molly Redden

When Emily Herx first took time off work for in vitro fertilization treatment, her boss offered what sounded like words of support: “You are in my prayers.” Soon those words took on a more sinister meaning. The Indiana grade school where Herx was teaching English was Catholic. And after church officials were alerted that Herx was undergoing IVF—making her, in the words of one monsignor, “a grave, immoral sinner”—it took them less than two weeks to fire her.

Herx filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2012. In response, St. Vincent de Paul School and the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, her former employers, countered with an argument used by a growing number of religious groups to justify firings related to IVF treatment or pregnancies outside of marriage: freedom of religion gives them the right to hire (or fire) whomever they choose. But in this case, the diocese took one big step further. And it’s is arguing that its religious liberty rights protect the school from having to go to court at all.

“I’ve never seen this before, and I couldn’t find any other cases like it,” says Brian Hauss, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Center for Liberty. The group is not directly involved in the lawsuit but has filed amicus briefs supporting Herx. “What the diocese is saying is, ‘We can fire anybody, and we have absolute immunity from even going to trial, as long as we think they’re violating our religion. And to have civil authorities even look into what we’re doing is a violation.’…It’s astonishing.”

The key legal question in Herx’s case is whether she was fired for religious reasons or her firing was an illegal act of sex discriminations.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. An exemption in that law allows religious institutions to favor members of their own faith during the hiring process. But there’s no religious exemption for sex discrimination—which is how Herx is framing her dismissal. As proof, she showed that the diocese had never fired a male teacher for using any type of infertility treatment. In response, the diocese asserted that it would fire a male teacher who underwent fertility treatments against church teachings—it just hasn’t done so yet. In early September, a federal judge ruled that there was enough evidence on both sides of the dispute for a jury trial.


 

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37 comments on “Catholic Church Argues It Doesn’t Have to Show Up in Court Because Religious Freedom

  • It is a very typical response from a religious organization. As the century progresses, religious organizations feel more powerful to defy the laws to the extent that their arrogance makes them think they can decide if they want to appear in court or not. No wonder it has been the Roman Catholic Church who has opened fire first, two thousand years of arrogant power gives much strength to defy the world. I expect for once and for all that the courts will get this air of superiority in the right place. This case is a small sample of what the world would be like if religion got away with it.



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  • 2
    Blasphemer1 says:

    Surely it’s high time that the judicial system makes an example of the Catholic Church in cases like these, and makes them accountable for the harm they are causing to good, innocent people who are trying to start a family through whatever means available to them.
    Not only should the teacher in question be awarded damages and leave the court room with a huge victory, but more importantly, the judicial system needs to take the Catholic Church on by passing a law which makes hiding behind their religion illegal when it comes to being accountable in the court room.



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  • high time that the judicial system makes an example of the Catholic Church

    I concur. But given this is happening in America the probability of this occurring is low. But the sentiment you express should be an aspiration for the future. Religion should be subservient to the legal system.



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  • The fault in many ways lies with voters. Put up with this and you will have to put up with it. They forget that by forcing through an exemption in their case they have no right to stop other religions from behaving in a similar manner.

    There should be NO exemptions for religion in the law. If they cannot run a school, hospital or other business without it interfering with their beliefs, get out of the business!



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  • 7
    Cairsley says:

    There should be NO exemptions for religion in the law. If they cannot run a school, hospital or other business without it interfering with their beliefs, get out of the business!

    Amen!



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  • Alan4discussion Nov 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    In English law a subpoena is issued, requiring court attendance by named persons, and if the persons called to testify, fail to appear, an arrest warrant will be issued.
    Judges can jail people for indefinite periods for “contempt of court”!
    Those who want to argue, can do so from their jail cell with the prison staff, – until they think better of it, or until they are brought to court by the authorities in secure transport.



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  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans employers from discriminating
    on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin

    But it says nothing about enabling people for getting away with imposing ideals due to religion, merely that you can’t be discriminated against because of your religion. This is a toxic mindset to embrace regarding ‘religious freedom’, as it is distorting the law to give carte blanche for religions to get away with far too much in the name of religion, and as a result uses religion to oppress others.

    Disturbed by what people will try to get away with in the name of the letter of the law, especially when they’re distorting that letter every way they can.



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  • @OP – Catholic Church Argues It Doesn’t Have to Show Up in Court

    It seems that courts in New Zealand don’t put up with this sort of nonsense either!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-30203647

    .The Australian drummer of hard rock group AC/DC, Phil Rudd, has briefly appeared in court in New Zealand on charges of threatening to kill and possession of drugs.

    .The judge at the court in the North Island city of Tauranga briefly issued an arrest warrant for Mr Rudd, 60, after he failed to appear on time.

    The warrant was withdrawn when he appeared minutes later.

    I suppose the monastic tradition has a long history of spending time in cells repenting sins!!!!
    Perhaps the R.C.C. can provide a few representatives to continue this tradition!!!



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  • Precisely !
    Religion is only concerned with indoctrination, the last thing religion wants to see is education.
    Curiosity/inquiry/knowledge are poison to religion. ( curiosity killed the cat, doubting Thomas etc )
    Religious freedom should not be allowed as an excuse to persecute and promote hatred and ignorance.
    Hate literature is hate literature, even if it’s called religion.
    Here in Canada we are still dealing with the fallout from the native residential schools, run by the churches,
    yet we still have church run schools ! apparently we are a dim bunch !



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  • Or you might say “above the law”. The church has utter contempt for the “laws of man” that is why clerics are routinely shielded. Thomas Becket; in the brutal context of the god-fearing 12th century, got what he deserved after yearsof helping fellow clerics dodge the law of the land.



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  • I would like to understand what granted them the protection from prosecution . Could it be that they only answer to god ? god has diplomatic immunity?

    The only court they will attend is the court-o-god. This is what needs to be focused on so then we can put an end to god the scapegoat . There is no god or it would have struck you down already. People would have already paid for their sins for real. So if they can’t substantiate a court of god because there is no such thing. Then they have nothing but their silly robes.

    This is not a theocracy it is a religious Corporate Monarchy with loads and loads of assets.

    Having the right to be religious is the same as having the right to be delusional.



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  • I couldn’t help but be reminded what a cheerful bunch the RCC is ! Just look at the picture above. We should have a new Beethoven write a new “Ode to Joy” !

    Is anyone surprised at the RCC’s attitude ? I’m not. In their view, their Cannon Law is above anything else. Maybe they’re relying on the fact that a majority of the US Supreme Court judges are Catholic ? Scalia and his henchmen seem unlikely to be the ones headed for excommunication, – but then I’m not a theologian.



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  • What are all those virgin geezers going as?

    I once went to a wedding in a purple suit, and was asked by some guests to stand next to the presiding priest to have a two shot photo taken; if he thought I was sending him up, he couldn’t have been nearer the truth.



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  • What is wrong with a society that takes men dressing like that seriously? Seems they have gone to the wrong carnival. They really don’t seem to like it, but if it gives them immunity to legal responsibilities it is perhaps well worth it? What is it with all religions’ need to dress up their authorities in all sorts of weird costumes to make the message plausible?



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  • What are all those virgin geezers going as?

    Stafford, and this in sympathy with your comment, anyone pondering the circumstances of the virginity of these people need only look into the faces in the picture above.

    Now, to give your mind a real stretch, try to imagine the woman who could be tempted into changing that status for them.

    I fear that brain washed altar boys are really the only group that they have any chance with at all.



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  • 23
    TwoReplies says:

    Fuck you Catholic Church.
    Religious freedoms apply to individuals, NOT ORGANIZATIONS.
    And religious freedoms END at the individual. They do NOT give carte blanche to impose anything on others.



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  • 24
    hera2you says:

    is anyone surprised, really? i got my heads-up the church was poison whilst sitting in the 1st grade pews of St. Lawrence when Father Mel scolded former nun “just Elizabeth” (who did everything for that church) for putting ONE foot on the altar while we were waiting for catechism after youth mass. It was horrible and that’s when i first became a feminist, because i knew at age 6 he was scolding me, too, and it really pissed me off. 30 years later, i went back and made sure i sat right in the first pew and nursed my daughter uncovered. Up Yours, Father Mel: try scolding me now you dead doormat . . .



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  • I see JC Sheepdog; that’s why they look so miserable; yeah, that makes sense.

    I’ve always found the concept of religious faith slightly disturbing, but many of its outcomes horrify me.

    The one attribute we possess which distinguishes us from all other animals is the power to reason, and abandoning it can lead to catastrophic results; as we witness, daily, World wide.



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  • Can’t you just use Mary had Jesus out of wed lock precedent and call it a day? And stone God for coveting thy creations wife while we’re at it?



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  • Hi Walt,

    It’s even more complicated than that. According to the Catholics, Jesus is God. So not only was Mary an unwed mother bearing a Bastard son (in the literal sense of the word). But he was conceived by him impregnating his own mother in full knowledge that in time he would commit suicide on the cross for the forgiveness of sins (such as adultery) that most of us hadn’t even committed yet and sins that you and I are still to make. So how Catholics can be so puritanical about sex and so down on euthanasia are far beyond my understanding, but then I’m not a theologian so I suppose that’s to be expected.



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  • It’s funny how these little signs of injustice stay with you all your days. I still remember how I bristled when we had lessons on Early Man.
    Well done you in knowing at an such early age that an injustice was being perpetrated.



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  • Reckless Monkey Nov 28, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    So how Catholics can be so puritanical about sex and so down on euthanasia are far beyond my understanding, but then I’m not a theologian so I suppose that’s to be expected.

    Ah! – but remember, the more perverse, obscure, unintelligible, and self-contradictory the story, the stronger the faith required to believe it!!!
    They are, after all, theologians!!!!!



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  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans employers from discriminating
    on the basis of race, color, religion…

    Wouldn’t this be religious discrimination on the basis of her religious beliefs being different than her employer?



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  • Meanwhile as religinuts persecute those who need contraception or abortions, –
    The theists’ leaders are cosying up to each other, as if “persecution” (or perceptions of persecution), was nothing to do with”faith” or the dogmatism of “faith-thinking”!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30265996
    Pope and patriarch condemn Mid-East ‘persecution’

    **Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians have condemned the treatment of many Christians in the Middle East*.

    In a joint declaration, the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew I said they could not resign themselves to a “Middle East without Christians”.

    On a three-day visit to Turkey, the pontiff discussed divisions between Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

    In Istanbul, he and the patriarch also called for peace in Ukraine.

    Only around 120,000 Christians remain in Turkey, where the vast majority of the 80 million citizens are Muslims.

    Pope Francis also called for an interfaith dialogue with Muslims to counter fanaticism and fundamentalism when he visited the Turkish capital, Ankara.
    ‘Indifference of many’

    The violent conflict in Ukraine this year has accentuated differences between its large Orthodox and Catholic communities.

    The Pope and the patriarch said: “We pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.”

    As his visit draws to a close, Pope Francis is also due to meet Turkey’s chief rabbi, whose flock has diminished to just 17,000 people.

    Christians have been targeted by Muslim hardliners in Iraq and Syria in recent years, with a violent campaign of persecution by Islamic State militants this summer when they captured the Iraqi city of Mosul.

    In their joint declaration, the two Church leaders said: “We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East…

    At the Blue Mosque on Saturday, one of the greatest masterpieces of Ottoman architecture, the Pope turned east towards Mecca, clasped his hands and paused for two minutes as the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, delivered a Muslim prayer.

    Ah! Prayer for peace and a “call for respect for international laws”!! – That’s fixed all the world’s problems of faith-heads going for each other hammer-and-tongs over real and imagined issues!!!! (allegedly)
    What was that about respect for secular laws???????



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  • This makes no sense. Catholicism increases profits by encouraging believers to have more babies, then indoctrinating them. You would think Octomom would be on track for canonisation. You’d think they would be chomping at the bit for cloning too.



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