Cathy Samford Fired by Christian School for Unmarried Pregnancy; Teacher Files Lawsuit

'The Issue Here is Being an Unmarried Mother,' Says Headmaster

Cathy Samford, a Texas teacher for three years at Heritage Christian Academy, had recently began teaching science. She was fired from her position after the school discovered that Samford had become pregnant out of wedlock.

The school maintained that it had an obligation to uphold its Christian values, which include the sanctity of marriage.

"It's not that she's pregnant. The issue here is being an unmarried mother," Dr. Ron Taylor, the school's headmaster, told ABC. "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."

Samford, 29, is 39 weeks pregnant, currently engaged, and defending her position.

"I'm not just some teacher that went out to a bar and go pregnant and went back to school saying it's okay," Cathy Samford told ABC News Wednesday. "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."

Samford admitted that she was shocked when the school addressed her and explained that the situation was inappropriate.

"I didn't think I would lose my job," Samford said.

In response to her dismissal, Samford has secured a lawyer and filed a charge of gender and pregnancy discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She also has the intent of drawing up a lawsuit against the school.

Samford's lawyer, Colin Walsh, argued that school does not have the right to terminate his client based solely on their Christian values.

"It's against the law to fire someone for them taking a pregnancy leave and you can't preventatively fire someone. You can't contract around anti-discrimination laws," Walsh told ABC. "Just being generally religious or upholding Christian values is not enough to evoke the ministerial exception."

Sometimes, though, it is.

A similar case occurred in California when Red Hill Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tustin fired Sara Henry, the school's preschool director, after discovering that she was living with her boyfriend.

When Henry took the church to court, the court upheld the church's right based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The document states that "it shall not be an unlawful employment practice" for a religious educational institution to hire and employ individuals on the basis of religious belief.

"[Henry] knew she was to serve as a Christian role model to the students and their parents, both in and out of school," the court upheld. "Henry's employment was terminated for religious reasons for which the church and school are exempt under title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act."

Samford could be in for similar treatment under the precedents put in place by the Civil Rights Act.

Dr. Taylor supports the law in place, and maintains that the perspective is different in Christian schools- their policies are not the same as secular institutions.

"Were we a public school, this would not have been an issue. But it's different in a Christian school," Taylor affirmed.