Victoria Crisitello: NJ Supreme Court to hear case of Catholic school teacher fired for pregnancy before marriage

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Seven years after a teacher in New Jersey was fired by her Catholic school for her pre-marriage pregnancy, the state Supreme Court stepped in and decided to hear the ensuing court case, which the school administration said could impact “fundamental freedom of religion.”

St. Theresa’s School fired Victoria Crisitello, an elementary school art teacher, after learning she was expecting a child. The manager allegedly told her that she had been fired because she was “single and pregnant”, according to the New York Times.

An appeals court has twice sided with Crisitello in his lawsuit against the school, which argued his dismissal was discriminatory. However, last month the state Supreme Court intervened on behalf of the school and decided to hear the case.

The school maintains that the dismissal was not discriminatory because it was exercising its freedom of religion because “sex outside marriage violates a fundamental Catholic belief that the school in this case felt it could not ignore” the school’s lawyers said.

The school maintained that the dismissal is legal under the precedent set by a 2020 Supreme Court decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School c. Morrissey-Berru. In that case, the court ruled that federal employment discrimination laws did not apply to teachers in religious schools, including lay teachers and staff.

While Sainte-Thérèse in Kenilworth, the archdiocese that oversees the school, said the case is a must-see fight for “fundamental freedom of religion,” Crisitello’s lawyer argued that the case concerned discrimination based on sex, double sex standards and the First Amendment. rights.

Thomas McKinney, the teacher’s attorney, said that because the school’s only evidence that Crisitello violated her moral code was her pregnancy, “only a woman can be punished, not a man.”

The manager said in depositions that she had not made an effort to determine whether other staff members were having extramarital sex.

“If you’re going to punish someone for doing something,” he said, “it has to be applied evenly and consistently.”

However, the school said in a court petition that a teacher at another school in the archdiocese was also fired after his unmarried girlfriend became pregnant.

The New Jersey court of appeals ruled that there was evidence the school had not attempted to apply its moral code equally.

“Although an employer of a religious school may legitimately seek to impose a moral doctrine on his teaching staff, the punishment directed singularly against the Hester Prynnes, without regard to the Arthur Dimmesdales, is not authorized”, judges city, referring to the characters of The scarlet letter.

Unless overturned, the opinion would serve as the state’s guiding legal standard on the matter. This underscored the importance of the case for the Archdiocese of Newark.

“This case affects fundamental freedom of religion not only for the Catholic Church and its institutions, but also for the operations of other religious organizations,” Archdiocese spokeswoman Maria Margiotta said in a statement to New York Times. “Potentially, all religious organizations, including all Catholic schools in the archdiocese, are affected. “

Tip the press team at NR.


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