Unwed teacher Tessana Lewis was fired by Hoover (AL) Christian school when it was learned she was pregnant. This will shock you: she sued. Genuinely shocking: she lost:
A federal judge has upheld the firing of a former teacher at a Hoover Christian school because he said the school is exempt from a federal pregnancy discrimination law, according to an opinion made available Wednesday.
The case involved a teacher at the school who was pregnant when she was hired, but was not married.
Senior U.S. District Judge William Acker Jr. said a jury correctly found that Tessana Lewis' pregnancy was a motivating factor in her firing, but the school, Covenant Classical School of Trace Crossing, is exempt because it is a religious institution that can make hiring and firing decisions based on its belief system....
Lewis claimed she was fired three days after she was hired Dec. 6, 2003, because she was pregnant. Lawyers for Covenant argued that Lewis was fired not because she was pregnant but because she had sex outside marriage, violating the Bible-based values and principles taught there.
School officials testified that the school forbids its employees from engaging in immoral conduct, both inside and outside the classroom, and is entitled to make employment decisions based on its Christian beliefs.
"The court has no quarrel with the conclusion reached by the jury that Lewis' pregnancy played a part in the decision to terminate her," Acker wrote. "It was clearly the pregnancy that alerted Covenant to the fact that Lewis had engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the jury to have answered otherwise."
Testimony showed that Lewis, when she was hired, agreed with the school's statement of faith and policies, including those concerning morality. A court filing said, however, that Lewis would not assure the school she would stop her conduct of engaging in sex outside marriage.
Well, chalk one up for religious freedom on this one. If the school couldn't fire her under those circumstances then they had essentially no ability to exercise their religious principles, which she agreed to when she was hired.
Oh, and I love this typical American jury's reasoning:
The jury, after listening to four days of evidence last week, suggested awarding Lewis $600 in back pay and $15,000 for mental anguish, according to a court filing. But Acker said the jury's clear finding in other areas favorable to Covenant prevented the jury from awarding Lewis damages.
Yes, they had every right to fire her, but let's give her a big check anyway. *sigh*