Vouchers For This?: Catholic School Teacher In Indiana Fired For Using IVF

Herx’s unfortunate situation shows exactly why taxpayers should not be forced to pay for religious school tuition.

In what looks like another example of the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s “war against women,” an Indiana teacher said she was fired by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (Ind.) because she received in vitro fertilization.

Emily Herx, who is married and unable to conceive naturally, was told she was no longer welcome at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School because her choice to receive IVF makes her a “grave immoral sinner,” according to the Associated Press. (The Catholic hierarchy is against IVF because the process requires the creation of extra embryos, which are later destroyed.)

Herx, who taught language arts for eight years and received outstanding performance reviews according to the AP, is now suing in federal court for unlawful termination. It remains unclear whether the school can fire her under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent “ministerial exception” holding.

The Supreme Court said last year in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran School v. EEOC that ministers who have been fired can’t sue their churches for violation of employment discrimi­nation laws.

But according to ABC News, Herx’s attorney, Kathleen Delaney, said, “The facts in this case are distinguishable. There is no ministerial exception. Ms. Herx didn't have religious training, did not teach religious doctrine.” 

The diocese declined to comment to ABC on the case, but spokesman Sean McBride said, “It's sad day for our diocese and the St. Vincent's family. We're asking for prayers for our diocese and the Herx family.”

It’s ironic that Herx’s case came out of Indiana, because the state legislature there recently passed a massive voucher scheme to subsidize religious and other private schools. Like so many similar programs, it allows students to attend private schools, including religious ones, using taxpayer funds.

The Indiana Supreme Court is currently reviewing the constitutionality of the voucher plan, and Americans United weighted into the case in March. In our friend-of-the-court brief, AU noted that more than 99 percent of the nearly 4,000 participating students have so far used the vouchers to attend religious schools. State aid to religious schools clearly violates the separation of church and state.

Herx’s unfortunate situation shows exactly why taxpayers should not be forced to pay for religious school tuition. Many students who receive vouchers will inevitably attend parochial schools, which are free to teach religion, to discriminate on religious grounds in admissions and even claim a right to fire teachers based on adherence to religious doctrine – even if they aren’t Catholic and don’t teach religion!

Whether or not the diocese was permitted to fire Herx for being a “grave immoral sinner” is for a court to decide, and at this point, it’s hard to say what the outcome of that case will be. It should be perfectly clear, however, that states have no business forcing taxpayers to subsidize organizations that treat teachers (and women) this way.