CINCINNATI -- At age 30 and single, Christa Dias wanted a baby and decided on artificial insemination.
The results: a daughter, a lost job, and a federal discrimination lawsuit that is being viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees' lives.
Ms. Dias alleges that the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati and two elementary schools where she taught violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws by firing her in October, 2010, because she was pregnant.
The archdiocese said she was fired because artificial insemination is immoral and violates church doctrine and a contract requiring all employees to "comply with and act consistently in accordance with the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."
Dan Andriacco, an archdiocese spokesman, said, "Parents who pay to send their children to a Catholic school have a right to expect that those children will be educated in an environment that reflects Catholic moral teaching."
Ms. Dias, who is not Catholic, said, "Nobody should control my right to have a child."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January against a former religion teacher at a Lutheran school in Michigan who said she was fired because she pursued an employment discrimination claim over a disability. The court said she was a "ministerial employee," and religious groups can dismiss those employees without government interference.
The Cincinnati archdiocese urged the dismissal of Ms. Dias' lawsuit, contending it could fire her because she taught at Catholic schools.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spiegel waited for the January ruling before determining that Ms. Dias' 2011 lawsuit could proceed. He recently ruled that Ms. Dias, who taught computer classes, had no apparent ministerial duties. No trial date has been set.
Ms. Dias is seeking lost wages and benefits and unspecified damages and said she wants "to make sure they can't do this to anyone else."
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