Fired teacher challenges school’s morality clause: Baby bumps more ‘obvious’ than hairy palms
A Catholic school district in Montana fired a middle school teacher last month after it received an anonymous letter indicating that the woman, who is single, was pregnant.
Shaela Evenson — who was, by all accounts, an excellent literature teacher — was fired by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena for violating the morality clause of her contract.
Evenson “made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract” by having sex outside the sanctified bonds of wedlock, Superintendent Patrick Haggarty told The Montana Standard.
When reminded of this, Haggarty responded that “[t]he Holy Father certainly understands the sacrament of marriage and certainly is compassionate and understanding, and so is the diocese in Helena.”
“I think that the connection between what the Holy Father has done,” he continued, “which is an incredible act of kindness, is not the same as what we face with a contractual obligation with our teachers. I’m sure that the woman that he blessed is a wonderful person, as is Shaela, but the woman just didn’t agree to teach in a Catholic school.”
A spokesman for the diocese agreed, saying that “[a] Catholic school teacher enters into an agreement not only with the district but with parents and teachers…to follow a lifestyle in line with Catholic teachings.”
Lawyers for Evenson claim that although religious organizations are protected from some discrimination suits so long as their religious contracts apply equally to women and men, in reality the visibility of certain sins is more prominent in some cases.
Her lawyer, Brian Butler, claims the school violated her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Other legal analysts like Lauren Fischer, a professor of law at Washington and Lee University who spoke to Mother Jones, agree, arguing that “[t]he majority of sins do not present themselves with hairy palms, growing noses, crossed eyes, or anything else that would make one’s sins obvious—except for the one instance in which there is glaring evidence of moral transgression: pregnancy outside of marriage.”
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