CINCINNATI – A teacher fired from Catholic schools after becoming pregnant through artificial insemination told jurors Wednesday she didn’t know that the procedure violated church doctrine or that she could be fired for it.
Christa Dias sued the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the schools over her dismissal, contending they fired her simply because she was pregnant and unmarried. Her attorney, Robert Klingler, has said the firing violated federal law prohibiting pregnancy discrimination.
Testifying on the second day of trial, Dias choked up at times and wiped tears from her eyes as she described being fired in October 2010 and told she would be escorted off the property.
“I was just in shock,” she said.
Dias, who is gay, said she and her same-sex partner had discussed the possibility that being pregnant and unmarried could cause a problem with her employers. But they thought she could explain that the pregnancy was through artificial insemination and not premarital sex.
Dias and her partner have moved within the last year to Atlanta with their 2-year-old daughter, but they probably would have remained in Cincinnati if Dias had not been fired, both Dias and her partner testified.
Steve Goodin, the attorney representing the archdiocese and the schools, presented several witnesses later in the day, including the archdiocese’s human resources director, William Hancock.
Hancock said he consulted with the schools over the issue and recommended they fire Dias after he was told she was pregnant out of wedlock and later that the pregnancy resulted from artificial insemination.
Hancock said premarital sex and artificial insemination violate Catholic doctrine.
Dias was fired because she violated the contracts she signed “saying she would uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Hancock said. “She made a choice against the five contracts she signed.”
He said his recommendation was “based on the conduct, not the pregnancy.”
Dias’ lawsuit also alleges church policy is not enforced equally against men and women.
Hancock testified that he would recommend firing a man who had gotten an unmarried woman pregnant or who had participated in artificial insemination. He acknowledged that none of those situations has been brought to his attention.
Dias said she is a Christian but not Catholic and was told that didn’t matter when she was hired. She said she thought the contract clause requiring compliance with church philosophies meant she should try “to be a Christian woman and follow the Bible.”
Goodin has alleged the lawsuit is about money. Dias said Wednesday that she sued because her firing was wrong and “to help other women who are in my situation.”
Dias is seeking to recover lost wages and damages for “pain and emotional stress” she suffered, her attorney has said. Dias’ combined salary at the two schools was about $36,000.
The case, viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees’ lives, is the second lawsuit that’s been filed in the last two years against the archdiocese over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher.
Both attorneys completed their case Wednesday, and closing arguments are scheduled for Friday.
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