A Texas teacher fired from her position at a Christian middle school for being pregnant and unmarried said she will be taking the school to court for violating her equal employment rights.
Cathy Samford, who worked at Heritage Christian Academy in Rockwall, Texas, as a volleyball coach and science teacher, said she was in a stable long-term relationship with her fiancée when she became pregnant, and they were planning on getting married. However, the school felt that she breached her contract, which says that employees at the school are considered part of the ministry and need to be good "Christian role models" for their students.
"I'm not just some teacher that went out to a bar and got pregnant, (then) went back to school saying it's okay," Samford claimed in her defense in an interview with ABC News. "I was in a committed relationship the whole time, and probably would have been married if things had gone differently and this would be a non-situation."
She also did not agree that she was breaking her contract for not being a Christian role model.
"We all have different views and interpretations," the teacher expressed, according to WFAA.com. "It's not necessarily the Christian thing to do to throw somebody aside because of those."
Samford decided, however, that if it would save her job, she would get married right away. It still was not enough to make the Christian school change its stance.
"I was in shock and devastated and that's when I said, 'If this is the problem, I'm willing, and so is my fiancé, to go ahead and get married,' " the teacher said. "That wasn't the issue. We were going to get married regardless."
Samford has also said she will file a lawsuit against the school, citing gender and pregnancy discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her lawyer, Colin Walsh, said it was against both state and federal law to fire someone preventatively for taking a pregnancy leave.
"You can't contract around anti-discrimination laws. Just being generally religious or upholding Christian values is not enough to evoke the ministerial exception," Walsh said.
Dr. Ron Taylor, the school's headmaster, admitted that the decision to fire the pregnant teacher was not an easy one, but had to be done to preserve the morals that the Christian institution upholds.
"I understand some people that would say 'It's a heartless thing to do,'" Dr. Taylor told ABC News.
"Everything that we stand for says that we want our teachers, who we consider to be in the ministry, to model what a Christian man or woman should be," he added. "How's it going to look to a little fourth grade girl that sees she's pregnant and she's not married?"
Samford, however, insisted that her students know her well enough and she does not believe her out-of-wedlock pregnancy will have a negative effect on her students.
"They know me," she said. "I'm not someone who goes out and parties and is crazy and gives bad advice, trying to lead them in a certain direction."
The teacher hopes to be reinstated or at least receive some kind of compensation for her termination.