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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Double Standard?

Interesting story in today's NY Post:
A pregnant and unmarried former pre-kindergarten teacher yesterday accused the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Queens elementary school where she worked of wrongfully firing her for having sex out of wedlock and choosing to keep her baby.

...McCusker and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday charging that the diocese and school broke a 27-year-old federal law banning pregnancy discrimination.
I have a hard time seeing a Yeshiva behaving any differently if they were presented with a similar situation.

William Donohue, president of the national Catholic League, takes the NYCLU to task for their hypocrisy in pursuing this case:
Donohue accused the NYCLU of hypocritically asking the government to step into a church matter after constantly battling any church involvement in government affairs.

"If they win, every rabbi or minister will have to listen to what state bureaucrats have to say about the running of religious schools," he said.
I would imagine that a religious institution has more leeway in requiring a teacher to follow rules of behavior than a public institution, but the NYCLU is using a claim of gender discrimination against the school.

Apparently, the school had always had a rule prohibiting premarital sex for its faculty members, but never enforced it. Only when the teacher announced her pregnancy did the school cite the rule.
But her lawyers argue that the school and church held McCusker to its policy of prohibiting sex outside marriage only after she became pregnant, thereby enforcing the policy in a way that disproportionately affects women and is illegal.

"The school used her pregnancy as a marker," said NYCLU lawyer Cassandra Stubbs. "How do they determine if male employees engage in premarital sex?"
Though I'm sure that there are people who will find this argument cogent, I think it's ridiculous. Yes, women are blessed with the ability to bear children, and thus bear a "marker" of premarital sex. But all her pregnancy is indicative of is that she wasn't careful about getting caught. I am quite sure that this school would show equal heavy-handedness if a male teacher were to show similar carelessness about getting caught having premarital sex, for example getting caught "in the act", as it were.

I also don't like the teacher's argument that:
"I don't understand how a religion that prides itself on being forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I'm pregnant and am choosing to have this baby," a sobbing McCusker said at a press conference at the NYCLU offices.
Yeah, being forgiving is a quality one might look for in a religious institution when one is a congregant. But as an employee, I am not as sure you can ask for such forgiveness. Don't religious institutions have a greater responsibilty to those who they are educating than to those they are employing? I believe they do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A teacher is supposed to be a role model for the students.a Catholic school has an obligation to provide role models in the context of their religion.Some years ago one of my daughter's teachers was living with a man,when the menahel found out,she was fired,and explained why.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

she could have been artificially inseminated too for all they know

but it would set a rediculous precedent, especially for the questions you raise for the yeshiva system

9:09 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

She admits to having had sex, only that the school doesn't usually enforce it. I can't imagine that standing up long in court.

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far as I can tell, she might be a rape victim--following the Church's prohibition on both birth control and abortion. So how is it okay to fire her in that case?

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent story for discussion and great analysis. Parents want to leave their children with teachers that reflect their values. It is appropriate for a school to refrain from witch hunts into their employees' bedrooms. But, when their bedroom goes on display in the classroom, I believe that the school is well within their rights.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Expecting your employees to be perfect role models is a nice ideal, but one that is rarely realized. I am pretty sure that the esteemed rabbonim and mechanchos in our schools have their share of aveiros. Some of them are even obvious to their students. Take a look around and count them up : smoking, loshon hora, tax evasion, etc. If we all insist on angels to educate our children, who will dare submit their resumes ? Not me, that's for sure.

How many of the esteemed Satmar educators who were videotaped in a public brawl on simchas torah, how many of those who teach in their schools were fired the very next day for the terrible chillul hashem in which they participated in ?

12:53 AM  
Blogger Safranit said...

There was a story in Chicago about a guy who was working for a Jewish Youth Group (not Orthodox) and his non-Jewish girlfriend got pregnant and he was going to marry her. (But she wasn't going to convert IIRC.)

They fired him.

I was very uncomfortable with that decision, because many of the youth group members were of mixed marriages and there was no penalty against them.

In the time since this happened, I have become much more observant, but I still have a problem with their decision

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Catholic church has it wrong. They are supposed to fire the pedophile priests.

Why is it that a pregnant women is fired within hours of them finding out. Yet pedophile priests are not fired, even years later?

8:09 AM  
Blogger Ayelet said...

The lawsuit specifically alleges sex discrimination. That is, a guy could easily get away with premarital sex without any "evidence" and reprecussions. Not so for a woman. As we all know, pregnancy becomes quite obvious. (Ah, if only guys could have a chance at the pregnancy part. Talk about birth control! They'd never last!)

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a hard time seeing a Yeshiva behaving any differently if they were presented with a similar situation.

I attended a girl's yeshiva h.s. in the NY Metro area and had a teacher who was pregnant but not married. She was one of a succession of eight teachers that were brought in to fill a spot left vacant at the start of the school year. She didn't last, but since none of the others did nobody thought about it too hard. I wonder if she was fired on moral grounds. (Though she was obviously pregnant when she started.)

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find it ironic that the Catholic Church basically fired a woman for not having an abortion?

2:27 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

if it is a privately funded school, can't it do what it chooses?

my friend's son goes to a conservative day school. he has a teacher who is unmarried and pregnant. she was wondering how to explain that one to him when he asked! as far as i heard she did not get fired though.

8:43 AM  

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