An unwed pregnant teacher sued a school she taught at for nine years after a Montana Catholic diocese fired her for a breach of contract. Now, a federal court will decide if the U.S. Constitution supersedes tenets of the Catholic Church.
In a stunning 12-page court document, former teacher Shaela Evenson claims in her lawsuit that Butte Catholic Schools discriminated by firing her for being pregnant and having a baby out of wedlock, according to the Montana Standard.
“BCCS’s actions were malicious, oppressive and committed with reckless disregard for Ms. Evenson’s rights. Such actions and conduct should therefore be punished by an award of punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.”
The then-pregnant teacher sued the school for allegedly singling her out due to gender and marital status. She contends that the Helena Diocese does not make a practice of investigating non-pregnant women and single men. Therefore, she believes officials violated her constitutional rights to bear children.
However, diocese officials say the ex-teacher, who taught sixth through eighth grade physical education and literature, breached her contract that requires her to practice Catholicism — inside and outside the classroom.
Last year during the summer, Evenson became pregnant via artificial insemination. Then, in January, the superintendent of schools for the diocese, Patrick Haggarty, called her into a meeting and discussed the contents of an anonymous letter he and the Bishop of Helena received over her pregnancy.
She verified rumors that she was with child and not married, but Haggarty gave her the option to resign over not honoring terms of her contract. After refusing to quit, the pregnant teacher was fired by school officials two days later. Evenson sued.
In a similar story reported by The Inquisitr, Emily Herx, a teacher from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was terminated by a Catholic school for having undergone in vitro fertilization (or IVF) in 2012, a practice strictly frowned upon by the Vatican.
The case sparked a charged topic surrounding a U.S. Supreme Court case at the time, which forbids workers from suing their employer for discrimination, due to the “ministerial exception.”
Evenson’s lawyer, who is likely to face similar challenges, says that the Roman Catholic views about what a woman can and cannot do to her body are direct violations of his client’s rights to bear children.
In his corner is a case he prevailed on last year. Similar to the Montana lawsuit, his client was fired for getting pregnant while working as a teacher in Ohio.
Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati lost the case when a jury, that was instructed to overlook the “morality clause,” ruled for the plaintiff. The attorney said that a religious entity’s doctrines do not trump state and federal laws. In the end, the unwed mom was awarded $170,000 based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Should a pregnant teacher have the right to sue a school diocese after being fired, despite entering into a contract?
[Image via NBCMontana]