The Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has said that contrary to reports, it is still considering whether it will launch an appeal after losing a case against a teacher it fired in 2010 for becoming pregnant by artificial insemination.
"This is a very complex verdict. We will have to study it before we make a determination on whether to appeal," Dan Andriacco, Communications director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, told The Christian Post on Wednesday.
The Associated Press had previously reported that legal experts expect the archdiocese to launch an appeal following Monday's decision by a federal jury which awarded $171,000 to Christa Dias, the technology teacher who was fired in October 2010 after revealing that she had become pregnant by artificial insemination.
Dias, who worked at Holy Family and St. Lawrence schools in East Price Hill, Cincinnati, received $51,000 for back pay, $20,000 for compensatory damages, and $100,000 in punitive damages. Although the Catholic Church has argued that the teacher signed a contract that clearly states she must follow Catholic teachings, which prohibit artificial insemination, Dias' lawyer positioned that she worked as a non-ministerial employee and was not bound by such requirements.
"For the Archdiocese, this case has always been about an employee violating a legally enforceable contract that she signed. We also believe that we have a First Amendment right to give Catholic school parents what they expect – an environment that reflects Catholic moral teaching," Andriacco told CP.
"Our schools are Catholic schools and the work that our school employees do is an extension of that ministry. For that reason, we believe the ministerial exception should have applied in this case and it never should have gone to trial."
Steve Goodin, an attorney for the archdiocese, argued that she never intended to abide by her contract, pointing out that Dias had kept from the schools the fact that she was gay because she knew that was against Catholic doctrine.
"We always viewed this as a contract case, and then a First Amendment case, secondarily, which was that any church or school, no matter what its denomination, ought to have the right to enforce its doctrine within its four walls," Goodin said after the verdict.
Deacon Keith Fournier of St. Stephen Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, Va., previously told CP that the case "shows a growing hostility toward the church, and an agenda to seek to compel the church to lay aside its deeply-held moral and religious teachings."
"We're watching a continued encroachment on the church and her right to ensure that the people who work in her institutions abide by the teaching of the church," he lamented.
In response to the central argument that Dias, who is not a Catholic, worked as a teacher and that the rules of the Catholic Church do not apply to her, Andriacco said that although it is true that not all teachers and students in the archdiocese's schools are Catholic, the schools themselves are.
"We view them as an extension of our ministry. That's why we open the doors every morning. The latest version of our contract with teachers specifies that we consider them ministerial employees," the communications director explained.