The attorneys of Emily Herx, an Indiana woman who claims she was fired from her job at a Roman Catholic school after undergoing in vitro fertilization, say the church's doctrine against the procedure should be irrelevant in their client's sex discrimination court case, while church attorneys insist it is a key element in the lawsuit.
"Whether IVF violates the teachings of the Catholic Church is not a fact at issue in this case," Herx's attorneys wrote in court documents, reports The Kansas City Star. "Defendants have argued repeatedly that their religious teachings should not be hashed out before a secular court, and now they seek to bring religious teachings front and center."
Last week, church attorneys said they wanted officials of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to explain the details of their doctrine before a jury when the trial begins, since they believe IVF is an immoral, dehumanizing procedure because human embryos are generally destroyed or frozen in the process.
In 2011, Herx, who taught English at St. Vincent De Paul School in Fort Wayne, Ind., was terminated after revealing that she had undergone two rounds of IVF in order to become pregnant. Herx, who is married, claims the school principal was aware of her treatment and no one had told her it was a problem. She reportedly miscarried the embryo in April 2011, after learning that her teaching contract would not be renewed.
Herx then filed a lawsuit against the diocese and St. Vincent De Paul claiming that her termination violated a few federal laws. Her attorneys argue that her dismissal is a case of gender and disability discrimination based on her infertility.
However, the diocese argues that Herx signed a morality clause upon offer of employment agreeing to adhere to Catholic doctrine, which all diocesan school employees are obliged to do whether they practice the Catholic faith or not. The diocese also says the lawsuit challenges their freedom to make decisions based on religious belief.
In a similar case, Shaela Evenson, a single teacher at a Catholic middle school in Butte, Mont., was fired in January after getting pregnant for violating the terms of her contract. In a 2010 case, another unmarried teacher, Christa Dias, filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after she was fired for becoming pregnant through artificial insemination. She was also fired for violating church doctrine.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the church's teachings and urged infertile couples not to use IVF or alternative forms of artificial procreation as they believe reproduction should be limited solely to marital sex.