A teacher fired after becoming pregnant through artificial insemination was expected to tell jurors her version of events as the trial in her lawsuit against a Roman Catholic archdiocese and two of its schools entered its second day.
Gary Landers / The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, file
Christa Dias holding her daughter, then 11 months old, in her Withamsville, Ohio home in Dec., 2011.
Christa Dias has sued the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the schools over her 2010 dismissal, contending they fired her simply because she was pregnant and unmarried. Her attorney, Robert Klingler, told a federal jury in opening statements Tuesday that the firing violated federal law prohibiting pregnancy discrimination. The trial was set to continue on Wednesday.
The archdiocese's attorney, Steve Goodin, told jurors "there was no discrimination," saying Dias was fired for violating a contract that he says required her to abide by Catholic doctrine. The archdiocese has said that artificial insemination violates that doctrine and is immoral.
Dias, who is not Catholic, alleges in her lawsuit that church policy is not enforced equally against men and women. A man formerly employed in youth ministry at a suburban Dayton parish within the archdiocese testified in a sworn video deposition Tuesday. He testified that some church officials were aware that he and his wife used artificial insemination when they were trying to have a child and that he was not fired or disciplined in any way.
Jack Frazine, who formerly worked as a youth minister at St. Paul Parish in Englewood, said he sought out Dias' attorney when he heard of her firing because he "thought it was unfair."
The archdiocese has argued that Dias was a ministerial employee and the Supreme Court has said religious groups can dismiss those employees, but Klingler insists Dias had no ministerial duties.
Dias' attorney also stressed Tuesday that Dias, who is gay, had always known she wanted to have a child and decided to get pregnant through artificial insemination. Klingler opened the trial Tuesday by showing jurors a photo of Dias' now 2-year-old daughter. He also said Dias did not know that artificial insemination would be considered a violation of her contract and Catholic doctrine by her employers.
Dias loved her job teaching computer classes at the schools and believes she is "a good teacher and a good moral person," he said.
While Dias' lawsuit does not claim that she was fired over her sexual orientation, Goodin noted that "the evidence will show that Dias never really intended to abide by the contract." He said she kept the fact that she was gay a secret because she knew the church doesn't approve of homosexual acts.
"That all goes to her credibility," he said.
Goodin also said the lawsuit is "about money, plain and simple" and the evidence will show that Dias is not entitled to any damages.
Dias is seeking unspecified damages to cover lost wages and "for the pain and emotional stress" caused by the firing, Klingler said.
The case, viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees' lives, is the second lawsuit that's been filed in the last two years against the archdiocese over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher.