A teacher fired after becoming pregnant through artificial insemination has sued a Roman Catholic archdiocese over her 2010 dismissal, arguing that they fired her because she was pregnant and unmarried.
Christa Dias told jurors on Wednesday that she didn't know the procedure violated church doctrine or that she could be fired for it during the trial in her lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati and two of its schools.
Dias' attorney Robert Klingler said the firing violated federal law prohibiting pregnancy discrimination during opening statements on Tuesday.
During the second day of trial, Dias choked up at times during her testimony and wiped away tears while describing her dismissal in October 2010 when she was told she would be escorted off the property.
"I was just in shock," Dias said.
However, the archdiocese’s attorney, Steve Goodin, argued “there was no discrimination,” saying Dias was fired for violating a contract that he says required her to abide by Catholic doctrine.
Goodin also presented several witnesses including the archdiocese’s human resources director, William Hancock, who recommended they fire Dias after he was told she was pregnant out of wedlock and later that the pregnancy was a result of artificial insemination.
Hancock, who said his recommendation was “based on the conduct, not the pregnancy,” said that Dias was fired because she violated the contracts she signed stating that “she would uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“She made a choice against the five contracts she signed,” Hancock said.
Dias' attorney argued that his client, who is gay, always knew she wanted to have a child and decided to do so through artificial insemination.
Opening the trial by showing jurors a photo of Dias and her now 2-year-old daughter, he said Dias did not know that artificial insemination would be considered a violation of her contract and Catholic doctrine.
Dias' lawsuit does not claim that she was fired over her sexual orientation.
He also said she loved her job teaching computer classes and is "a good teacher and a good moral person."
Dias, who is not Catholic, also alleges that church policy is not enforced equally against men and women.
Testifying in a sworn video deposition, a man formerly employed in youth ministry at a Dayton parish within the archdiocese testified that some church officials were aware that he and his wife used artificial insemination when they were trying to have a child. He was not fired or disciplined in any way.
Dias' attorney said his client is seeking to recover lost wages and damages for "pain and emotional stress" she suffered. Her combined salary at the two schools amounted to about $36,000.
No matter which way the case goes, the verdict will be seen as a barometer indicating the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees' personal and professional lives.
As the second lawsuit filed against the archdiocese in the last two years over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher, both sides of the debate will be waiting with baited breath for the jury's verdict.