Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Go and Teach No More

This case, in which a Christian school fired a teacher for being unmarried and pregnant, raises three interesting questions.

First, as a matter of policy, did the school act according to its own theological principles by firing the teacher? Sure, in their view she sinned. But after firing her she is not only a sinner, but a sinner without a job, insurance or support group. They made an example out of her, but at what cost to the teacher, and the child? Pro-life? Merciful? Kind, even?

Second, did they fire her for having sex outside of marriage? Or for being pregnant? The latter reason is prohibited by law.

Third, if they fired her for an illegal reason, does their status as a religious institute excuse them from the legal repercussions?

The jury answered the second question: Yes, the school fired her because she was pregnant. How did the jury decide that? Who knows, maybe she offered evidence that other employees sinned on occasion but still kept their jobs.

The third question is going to be the issue on appeal. How will it be decided? I do not know. There is no general you-are-excused-from-the-penalty-because-you-acted-from-a-bona-fide-religious-conviction card. However, the particular statute at issue here may have such a provision.

The first question is for the school's conscience. All I can say is at least they didn't stone her.