Fired for My Family

By Emily Herx, a teacher at a Catholic school in Indiana who was fired after the school discovered that she used IVF to try to become pregnant. The teacher filed EEOC charges and later a lawsuit in federal court alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and disability. The ACLU has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

I did not imagine when I began teaching at St. Vincent de Paul School that I would find myself in this position today. I loved teaching, and was devoted to my profession and to my students. When I was fired, I was shocked and saddened.

Having already had one beautiful child, my husband and I decided to expand our family. As many couples have, we experienced difficulty in conceiving. After we consulted with our doctor, we were both deeply saddened to find out that I was suffering from a medical condition that caused infertility.  Couples suffering from infertility are subject to numerous emotional strains. I sought comfort from my friends and family. And I reached out to my school principal, who told me she would keep me in her prayers.

Our doctor recommended we pursue in vitro fertilization (“IVF”), and so, in 2010, we did. I was hopeful the procedure would help us add to our family. IVF is a difficult road, and our first try was ultimately unsuccessful. I approached my principal again for time off to complete a second round of treatment, and only then was I told I would need to meet with the school’s Monsignor about my procedure.

The sadness and stress that comes from difficulty in conceiving is bad enough, but it was only compounded after meeting with the Monsignor. That meeting was the first indication I received that my use of IVF might be contrary to church teachings. Shocked as I was to learn this after receiving support during my first course of treatment, I was even more horrified to be called a grave, immoral sinner by the Monsignor. I was told I would not have my teaching contract renewed because I pursued IVF. I was devastated.

The emotional strain of infertility treatments, the loss of a job I loved so dearly, and my  involvement in this case have all taken a toll on my family, my friends, and me. While I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from individuals across this nation, this has been a challenging and traumatic road. However, it is important to me to right the wrong that has been done when the Diocese and school discriminated against me.

My husband and I teach our son that doing what is right is important, even when it is hard. I am heartened that one day my son will be able to look at his mom with pride for standing up for what is right and just, even when it was a struggle to do so.

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Sportster Mark

Is this indeed discrimination? When you work at a religious institution, it is expected that you would be representative of that institutions beliefs and values. As much as I do not share the values that are demonstrated here by the Monsignor, the fact remains that they are indeed expressed values of the Roman Catholic Church and an instrument of teaching those values has an obligation to the Faith itself to uphold and fulfill those values.

Religion isn't a free pass to discriminate against employees, and yet religious entities are guaranteed the right of freedom of their beliefs. How free to exercise is a religion that is required to employ not simply non-believers, but those who act in a manner directly contrary to those beliefs? Would a Synagogue be expected to maintain the employment of a person who advocated for the Holocaust? That may sound extreme, but it actually is quite the same concept as a Catholic School being required to maintain the employment of someone who actively goes against their doctrines and beliefs, and does so while instructing children being raised in that belief system.

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