FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Two national groups are supporting a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Indiana parochial school teacher who claims she was fired for trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American Civil Liberties Union filed friends of the court briefs Monday in support of Emily Herx. Herx filed a federal lawsuit in April against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, claiming she was discriminated against for a disability when her teaching contract wasn't renewed.
The Journal Gazette reports Herx suffers from infertility, which is a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When diocese officials learned Herx had undergone in vitro fertilization -- a treatment banned under Catholic doctrine -- they decided not to renew her contract.
Herx, who had been a language arts teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School, argues in her lawsuit that her termination violated both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission ruled in her favor in January.
Herx's attorneys also filed court documents Monday responding to the diocese's request that the case be decided on written arguments only, rather than advance to trial.
Diocese attorneys want the court to dismiss Herx's complaint because the diocese is a religious employer they contend acted in a manner consistent with its belief. Court documents filed by the diocese contend the lawsuit could lead to "government entanglement" in matters of Catholic Church doctrine, teaching and governance if the courts allow the case to proceed.
A letter written by Bishop Kevin Rhoades last summer called the procedure an "intrinsic evil, which means that no circumstances can justify it," according to court documents.
Herx's attorneys filed documents Monday reiterating their contention that the dispute is not a case of religious discrimination, and that Herx was not fired because of her religious views. Instead, they argue that it is solely a case of disability discrimination, and that while the Americans with Disabilities Act has some exemptions for religious employers, those exemptions do not apply in this case.
"Defendants in fact have admitted that (Herx's) contract was not renewed due to her undergoing IVF treatments," Herx's attorneys wrote in their motion.
New York-based ACLU attorney Jennifer K. Lee argues in support of Herx that the diocese's behavior is illegal.
"Neither the statutes nor the Constitution give religiously affiliated employers a blanket right to discriminate against lay employees on the basis of sex or disability, even if motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs," Lee wrote.