Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Keith A Fournier

6/5/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Christa Dias case has ominous implications

The Catholic Church was just fined by a civil jury for insisting that an employee at a Catholic School abide by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church. In the wake of the growing hostility toward the Church and the increasing violations against the Free Exercise of Religion in the United States, this verdict is a metaphorical warning shot across the bow. 

Christa Dias and her baby

Christa Dias and her baby

Highlights

By Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/5/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Church/State, establishment clause, free exercise clause, Christa Dias, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Religious freedom, Keith Fournier


CINCINNATI, OH (Catholic Online) - As a constitutional lawyer deeply concerned over the rights of the Church I have watched the Federal trial in Cincinnati with great concern. The problem with the case is that very few news sources have fairly reported on what is really at stake.

The photos associated with the news reports show a mom with her child at a Christmas tree. The effort is to paint the Catholic Archdiocese at best as a Grinch. When one reads most media reports, the picture presented is even worse. The Catholic Church is presented as a hypocritical ogre who wants to put a mother and child out on the street. 

Christa Dias is an openly practicing lesbian. She underwent artificial insemination in order to have a child outside of marriage. She signed a contract with the Archdiocese and clearly agreed to abide by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church as an employee of a Catholic School.

She did not do so. Openly practicing her lesbian lifestyle and undergoing artificial insemination are a clear breach of that contract. They are also unquestionably at odds with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.

Ms. Dias sued the Archdiocese when she was dismissed from her employment. She alleged it was not because of her open violation of her contract and opposition to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.

Rather, her clever lawyers filed the case in Federal Court. They argued she was fired because she was pregnant and that her dismissal was a violation of Federal Law prohibiting discrimination against pregnant women. 

Her lawyers also argued that the Archdiocese discriminated against her as a woman because married men who also participate in artificial insemination are not treated in the same way.

The archdiocese argued that she worked for a Catholic School, knew that her behavior violated the teaching of the Church and openly violated that teaching and the contract which incorporated it. In effect, they argued that she, like all who work in Catholic schools, was what the Law would call Law a ministerial employee. 

Or at least they should have made that argument strongly, if they did not do so. I hope they do so on appeal.

The US Supreme Court in 2012 affirmed the longstanding body of law protecting Churches in their employment decisions in the now famous Hosanna Tabor decision. Religious groups and churches can dismiss employees who openly oppose and defy Church doctrine.

On Monday, June 3, 2013, the jury returned their verdict in favor of Christa Dias and against the Church. They ordered the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to pay her 170,000. That amount included $51,000 for back pay, $20,000 for compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.

Punitive damages, as the name implies, are intended to punish the party found liable.
 
In other words, the Catholic Church was just fined by a civil jury for insisting that an employee at a Catholic School abide by the moral teaching of the Church. In the wake of the growing hostility toward the Church and the increasing violations against the Free Exercise of Religion in the United States, this verdict is a metaphorical warning shot across the bow. 

I am not sure what the Archdiocese is going to do. I sincerely hope they appeal this case. It has dangerous implications. It raises the question, can a Catholic, or for that matter any Christian institution, insist that its employees abide by the teaching of the Church?

On January 11, 2012 the United States Supreme Court, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued one of the most important Religion Clause cases of the last fifty years. It was a unanimous opinion. The majority opinion was written by Justice Roberts. Two concurring opinions were filed; one by Justice Thomas and a second by Justice Alito who was joined by Justice Kagan.

Cheryl Perich was a commissioned or called lay teacher at a Lutheran School in Michigan. In 2004 she was asked to resign after a six month leave of absence upon certain terms and with assistance. The terms were set forth in the internal employment manuals of the school.

The teacher objected and the school sought a resolution under their internal dispute resolution procedure. Ms Perich pursued another avenue - the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She sought to file a claim in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a Federal Statute.Those facts set up one of the most significant Church/State cases in American Law. This is often how such matters unfold in the world of American Jurisprudence.

Ms Perich attempted to argue that she was in essence a lay employee since she was not ordained clergy. She further argued that she essentially taught secular subjects and thus did not fall under what has been called the ministerial exemption to certain Federal legislation. 

The School claimed that she was called according to their internal doctrinal schema of their Church. Further, that all teaching at the school was a part of the mission of the Church. Finally, they maintained that the Church's internal dispute resolution system was to be followed because this was a Church institution.

The fact that the decision of the US Supreme Court was unanimous added to its weight; coupled with the issuance of three substantial opinions. The Court sets forth in its legal analysis a wide array of assistance for future lawyers engaged in defending Churches and religious institutions.

That has become absolutely essential these days as hostility toward the Church grows under our secularist regime. Such legal advocates are now regularly called upon to protect the Church from ever increasing Governmental encroachment and interference.

For example, this important opinion came just as the effort to compel Church and faith based institutions to implement the Affordable Care Act ramps up. Part of its implementation involves efforts to compel distribution of contraceptives and the provision of abortion services or face the wrath of the federal government.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution was intended to protect against the establishment of a National Church and a forced adherence to its doctrine - more aptly understood as an Anti-Establishment Clause.

Sadly, it has devolved into an interpretation of a Church/State separation which is hostile to religious institutions, discriminates against people of faith and seeks to censor religious speech and expression in the public square.

The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment was intended to protect religious institutions and people of faith in their vital role in speaking and acting in an authentically pluralistic society. It presumed that the values informed by faith were to be esteemed and welcomed because they serve the common good.

Sadly, it has been turned on its head - and is now used all too often to silence the Church.

Finally, the Free Speech clause has been subverted entirely. When the message and the messenger being examined under its light is determined by the State  to be speaking a "religious" or now even a "moral" message, its protections no longer apply.

This is one of the dangers of what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI labeled a Dictatorship of Relativism. In a culture where there is no objective truth, those who claim otherwise become perceived as a threat.

The Hosanna Tabor case was a resounding reaffirmation of the rights of Churches and religious institutions to operate freely and follow their own internal doctrine - as well as to determine their own way of resolving their own disputes. I had sincerely hoped it would protect the Church and Religious Institutions for awhile.

The Christa Dias case has ominous implications.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More U.S.

Why I Said No to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Deadly Watch

Image of I was approached to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to help bring an end to ALS. I said No. I have tried to explain why I said No in this article. I hope it is a helpful contribution in our public discussion. As a Christian, it is never easy to be seen as seemingly unwilling to support a noble cause such as the eradication of a debilitating disease. However, it is vital that we stand for for the fundamental and foundational moral truth which underlies every effort to end disease, the dignity of every human person, including embryonic human persons.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I was approached to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to help bring an end to ALS. I said No. I have tried to explain why I said No in this article. I hope it is a helpful contribution in our public discussion. As a Christian, it is never easy to be seen as seemingly ... continue reading


Toward a Christian Vision of Human Work On Labor Day Watch

Image of Christians need to bear witness in the real world to the true value, purpose, meaning and dignity of all human work - just as we bear witness to the inherent value and dignity of every human worker. This is a vital part of our witness to an age which has lost its way.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Adam and Eve worked in the garden and it brought them great joy. For the Christian, work is meant to become a participation in the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus, and His ongoing work. Jesus viewed his entire life and mission as work. He was always doing ... continue reading


American Islamic terrorist Fort Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State as a 'citizen' Watch

Image of Nadal Hasan, the man who killed 13 people during a rampage at Fort Hood in 2009, has written a letter to the Islamic State asking to join the terrorist organization as a citizen.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. Army psychiatrist, Nadal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood back in November 2009 has written a letter to the leader of the Islamic State, asking to become a citizen of the Islamic State's caliphate, an attorney of Husan reported on August 28. LOS ... continue reading


St Augustine on a Personal Relationship with Jesus Watch

Image of St Augustine

By Deacon Keith Fournier

But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we ... continue reading


SHAKEN WINE: Strong earthquake jolts California's wine region Watch

Image of The weekend's temblor was felt widely throughout the region, from more than 200 miles south of Napa and as far east as the Nevada border.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rumbled through the early Sunday morning hours in the heart of California's wine country. The epicenter was near the city of Napa in the Golden State's north. Fires erupted in a mobile home park where four homes were destroyed and two ... continue reading


Money is NOT the Root of Evil: Living Simplicity Watch

Image of Simplicity is not about the quantity of the goods of the earth we possess. It is about our relationship to them. Jesus said - Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:21).

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Learning to live in evangelical Simplicity strips away what impedes love. In finding our proper relationship to the goods of the earth- not rejecting them, craving them, or turning them into an idol- we can learn true freedom. Our eyes are opened and everything begins ... continue reading


Is Transgenderism a Mental Disorder or a Right? Watch

Image of Pope Emeritus Benedict was absolutely correct when he said, - the profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. - Gender is a gift. It is also a given. The dangers of the Gender Identity Movement are becoming increasingly clear.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In a culture where freedom has been redefined as a right to choose anything and liberty has degenerated into license, the newspeak of the age has declared the instrumental use of the body of another to be sexual freedom. It is not freedom. It turns people into ... continue reading


WORST YET TO COME? Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen,' Pentagon says Watch

Image of IS is

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online has been keeping very close watch on the atrocities being committed by Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, and according to a top government official - the worst is yet to come. According to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the sophistication, ... continue reading


Lawsuit dropped against devil worshiper in Oklahoma Watch

Image of Lawyers representing Archbishop Paul Coakley had earlier demanded the return of a communion wafer obtained by the group.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The leader of a satanic group in Oklahoma City had threatened that he and his followers would defile a consecrated communion wafer as an offering to Satan as a carnal sacrifice at a "Black Mass" ceremony inside Oklahoma City's Civic Center Music Hall. The ... continue reading


Should Americans have job preference over unskilled-illegal immigrants? President Obama doesn't think so Watch

Image of New polls are showing that Americans are tired of illegal immigrants getting benefits at the expense of citizens and legal immigrants.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to the Associated Press: "one of the more popular requests among business and family groups is a change in the way green cards are counted," which would "essentially free up some 800,000 additional visas the first year." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 2:1-5
1 Now when I came to you, brothers, I did not come ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102
97 How I love your Law! I ponder it all day ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-30
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 1st, 2014 Image

St. Giles, Abbot
September 1: St. Giles, Abbot (Patron of Physically Disabled) Feast day - ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter