Tustin Church Wins Appellate Court Blessing to Have Fired Preschool Teacher for Living in Sin

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It was not wrongful termination for Tustin's Red Hill Lutheran Church & School to fire a preschool teacher for living out of wedlock with her boyfriend and raising their child, the state appellate court in Santa Ana has ruled. Sara Henry had sued the church on grounds that her firing in May 2009 violated California's Fair Employment and Housing Act as well as public policy expressed in the FEHA, the state constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But, in its Sara Henry vs. Red Hill Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tustin ruling published Friday, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal found that state law exempts religious organizations from the FEHA, so the church could not violate it.

Henry was married when she began teaching preschool at the private church school in August 2002. She subsequently divorced and gave birth in June 2007 to a child fathered by her boyfriend. According to court documents, she informed church representatives while she was pregnant that she intended to get married but "was not ready to do so just yet."

The school's principal overheard a group of parents expressing disappointment in Henry's living situation at the end of 2008. The school terminated her employment the following spring on grounds her living arrangement was "contrary to the religious beliefs of the church and school." Henry then sued, a lower court dismissed the case, and Henry appealed.

While the FEHA "prohibits an 'employer' from engaging in acts of improper discrimination," the law "expressly excludes religious associations or corporations from the definition of employer," according to the three-judge appellate panel. "Evidence presented at the trial demonstrated that the church is a religious corporation not organized for private profit. In other words, termination of Henry's employment did not violate the FEHA."

Meanwhile, the court held that Henry did not cite in her opening brief any constitutional provision or statue other than the FEHA as a source of a public policy being violated by her firing. Had Henry and her boyfriend married, or if one of them moved out of their shared residence, the church would have been satisfied and Henry would have kept her job, the court noted. What the church "could not allow," the judges said, was to have Henry "continue living in what it considered a sinful manner."

Wait . . . what? The church would have been cool with a mother and child being ripped apart from the child's fathert? Hey, Murphy Brown, we've found you a congregation.


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17 comments
ZangKoo2
ZangKoo2

Kinda makes you wonder who comes up with all that nonsense. I mean seriously.www.Total-Privacy (dot) US

ZangKoo2
ZangKoo2

Never erally thought about it liek that, It does knda make sense when you think about it.AnonSurfing.tk

ZangKoo2
ZangKoo2

I never thought about it liek that before. That actually makes a lot of sense dude. Wow.AnonWebToolz.tk

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

My mother remembers being a schoolteacher during a time when a lady was expected to quit her teaching job the moment she started "showing"...and this was in public school!

dontyawanna
dontyawanna

this is bullshit.  i taught preschool at a private religious school for years and the majority of us were living against 'the book'.  there were some teachers who had children out of wedlock, some that were whoring around, and some that were total stoners whenever they were off campus.  fuck those schools.  while i do think some of it is totally wrong (the drugs), it's their private life and as long as it doesn't affect the kids, it shouldn't affect their job.  judgemental pricks.

Culichi1967
Culichi1967

" the law "expressly excludes religious associations or corporations from the definition of employer,"....WTF!!! So I guess the non-profit status shields them from providing equal protection under the law as well as from paying taxes even though their profit is evident by their bullshit prosperity gospel' (aka money grubbing) teachings. .. 

So, like corporations, churches also are extensive users of the commons but cannot be held accountable for the outright discrimination.

I wonder how many of this school's upright employees and parents had premarital sex or ever lived in sin. Can you say H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y?

Ginamegraw
Ginamegraw

Wait, so because it's a "religious organization" it's exempt from the "definition of employer", what happens when said employers sexually harass an employee? Are you SOL too, then?

Fern
Fern

What kind of lawyer tries to argue that a law applies to a defendant when the law--on it's face--excludes the defendant, and does not cite state or federal constitutional law that would trump said state law!? I hope Ms. Henry's case was taken on a contingency fee so that she doesn't have to pay her attorneys for making total loser arguments.

bizzle
bizzle

do as I say, not as I do.

Aynrandspenismighty
Aynrandspenismighty

Didn't some chick named Mary give birth to someone else's kid while married to a guy named Joseph? Sometime around this time of year, too?

Briansays
Briansays

you would get a different ruling if it was a public school

20ftJesus
20ftJesus

Why the fuck was Henry sharing her personal life with her employer?  And why the fuck are a bunch of busy body parents discussing her living arrangements?  Good grief.  And doesn't the church have better things to do than running Henry's life?

Rednail64
Rednail64

I'm certainly happy that you are no longer teaching preschool at any school with a mouth like that!

Guest
Guest

I am not sure laws exclude religious institutions from the definition of "employer".... however, the attorneys that get paid big bucks to protect religious institutions in court, most likely would like to prove their clients are excluded. 

You have to give this church credit... at least the teacher's performance was not smeared so the church could "legally" terminate her employment.  Bishop Brown's attorneys and HR directors, will intentionally create "performance" issues to terminate a teacher's employment, especially a teacher that does not remain silent as it relates to protecting children and school employees.

Imagine what would happen if Bishop Brown's attorneys terminated school employees who were living in same sex marriages, etc.  SMCHS would have alot of vacant Vice-Principal positions open if that were the case.

Fern
Fern

Supposedly Mary was not wed to Joseph when she conceived Jesus (hence the name VIRGIN Mary). Immaculate conception is a bit different in the church's eyes than boinking your boyfriend out of wedlock. Though I would imagine that the majority of OC Weekly's audience would argue that Mary did the exact same thing as Ms. Henry...

Aynrandspenismighty
Aynrandspenismighty

She couldn't hide the pregnancy for long, she thought that honesty was the best policy (how cute) and she thought that her employers were compassionate human beings that followed the teachings of a guy named Jesus and not the teachings of the church. The church made the very christ-like decision to fire a woman, who just had a baby during an economic down-turn.

Gimpdaddy
Gimpdaddy

It would seem you have never been to church on a regular basis.

It's more cliquey than high school...

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