CINCINNATI (AP) — A jury began deliberations Friday in a teacher’s lawsuit alleging the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati violated anti-discrimination laws when it fired her after she became pregnant through artificial insemination.
An attorney for Christa Dias said during closing arguments that she was fired in 2010 “by an archdiocese that thought it was above the law.” The lawyer, Robert Klingler, said the jury had the power to tell the archdiocese that there is “not a separate set of laws” that applies to it.
Klingler said Dias, who sued the archdiocese and two of its schools, was fired solely because she was pregnant and unmarried.
Steve Goodin, the attorney representing the archdiocese and the schools, told jurors that the case is about Dias’ employment contract and her conduct that violated that pact.
Goodin said there was no evidence showing Dias “was targeted just because she was a pregnant woman” and no evidence of pregnancy discrimination.
“This case is purely and squarely about Catholic doctrine,” he said.
Artificial insemination and premarital sex are against Catholic doctrine, and Dias violated that doctrine and a morality clause in the contract she signed, Goodin said. The clause required her to comply with the stated philosophies and teachings of the church, Goodin said.
“She was aware from Day One that specific Catholic teachings applied to her conduct,” he said.
Klingler accused the archdiocese of using the contract as a “smoke screen” to divert attention from the pregnancy, which he said was “really the issue.” There was no evidence that Dias would have been fired for using artificial insemination if she had not been pregnant, he said.
While the lawsuit didn’t seek a specific amount in damages, Klingler suggested Friday that $200,000 in compensatory damages would not be unreasonable for what Dias went through with the loss of her job and health insurance and the worry she experienced.
He stressed that Dias is not seeking punitive damages from the schools, but that “the archdiocese is a different matter.”
Officials there “knew or should have known that they were breaking the law,” Goodin said. He suggested any punitive damages against the archdiocese should be double whatever compensatory damages might be set by the jury, to show that what church leaders did was wrong and shouldn’t happen again.
Goodin told the jurors that there was no basis for punitive damages against the archdiocese, which he said had only a minimal connection to the case.
He said finding for Dias would send a message “through the whole country,” that it’s “not OK” for private religious organizations to enforce doctrine.
By LISA CORNWELL