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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More U.S.

PM Netanyahu's Clarion Call Watch

Image of Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015, President Obama, his staff, and many Democrats in Congress boycotted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speech.

By Adele M. Gill

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015, as President Obama, his staff, and many Democrats in Congress boycotted his speech, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sounded a trumpet, a clarion call, for World peace. The message he delivered was cogent and clear: Peace and unity for all ... continue reading


What is she hiding? Hillary Clinton refused to use government email address while Secretary of State Watch

Image of Hillary Clinton did not use an official government email address while she was Secretary of State, potentially violating a law regarding open and free access to official documents.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Potential 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton may have shot herself in the foot; it has been revealed that as Secretary of State, Clinton used a personal email address for official government business, which may be a crime. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Is your teenager in danger? 1 in 5 teen girls experience dating abuse in the U.S. Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It seems like teenagers nowadays have forgotten what "respect your partner" means. Oftentimes, teenage couples leave one battered and the other selfish. Some even find fulfillment in impeding the rights of other people, and American teenagers have fallen into the hands ... continue reading


The top 5 things you need to know about the United States' quickly changing religious landscape Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For many years, Protestants made up the majority of the United States' population. A recent report from America Values Atlas tells us that, as the United States demographically shifts, this is no longer the case. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The United States as ... continue reading


EMPTY! Is there any gold in Fort Knox? Government's denial of audit raises serious concerns Watch

Image of While the U.S. government claims that about 3% of all minted gold sits in Fort Knox, recent and troubling rumors say that this is not true.

By Al Wooltin (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

About 3 percent of the gold ever refined in the entire history of mankind sits in the vaults of the United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, equaling about 5,000 metric tons of gold. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At least this is what the government of ... continue reading


Billy the Kid's New Mexico hideout now up for sale Watch

Image of According to legend, Billy the Kid is said to have killed 21 men, but it is generally believed that he killed eight.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a beautiful home in New Mexico, spacious, with breathtaking mountain views. It's hard to believe that it at one time sheltered Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney, one of the American Wild West's most notorious outlaws. It is now on the market for ... continue reading


Obama spends an alarming $3 billion on Obamacare WITHOUT Congressional approval Watch

Image of President Obama's administration is being accused of illegally spending money on Obamacare without Congressional approval.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Treasury Department may be moving forward with Obamacare regardless of Congressional concerns and a lack of funding, approving a $3 billion payment to health insurers despite the fact that Congress has not authorized any payments in annual ... continue reading


Obama Administration as Global Advocate for Radical LGBTI Agenda

Image of Randy Berry

By Keith A Fournier

Robert Reilly is right. The Obama administration is doing profound damage to the very understanding of human rights. We have fundamental human rights precisely because we are human persons. No-one should support the denial of truly fundamental human rights for ... continue reading


Climate change - WHERE IT HURTS: Scientists say warming will hit nation's agricultural heartland Watch

Image of The climate change panel's verdict came as a bit of a surprise: Greenhouse-gas emissions played a substantial role in Europe's misery, but not so much in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are very few positive things to result from climate change. Researchers now say that warmer temperatures will hit America where it counts: the nation's agricultural heartland. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers presented their latest findings ... continue reading


WITCHES ARE BACK: Witchcraft reappears in today's popular mainstream culture in unexpected ways Watch

Image of Witches are seen in both religion and as a feminist symbol.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The idea of the witch is making its rounds through history again. Females, both young and old, are embracing the power that comes with the feminist witch in today's society. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a recent twitter post, popular female rapper, Azealia ... 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, Jeremiah 18:18-20
18 'Come on,' they said, 'let us concoct a plot ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 31:5-6, 14, 15-16
5 to your hands I commit my spirit, by you have I ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 20:17-28
17 Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the road ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 4th, 2015 Image

St. Casimir
March 4: Casimir grew up in a world where his life was not his own. As a ... 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