Fired For Premarital Sex?

Teri James filed a lawsuit after being fired.Religious and reproductive rights have been going head to head in recent months, and a 29-year-old San Diego woman is the latest to land in the crossfire. Teri James claims that her former employer, a Christian college, fired her for getting pregnant outside of marriage, in violation of church values. And now she's suing, with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred by her side.

James worked as a financial aid specialist at San Diego Christian College for two years, reports CBSLA.com. The college claims that James, like all employees, signed a pledge when she was hired to live consistently with Christian values, and refrain from behaviors like lying, adultery, pornography, homosexuality and premarital sex.

When the school discovered that the unmarried James was pregnant, it gave her a termination notice, CBSLA.com reports, accusing her of "engag[ing] in activity outside the scope of the handbook and community covenant."

More: Fired For Being 'Too Hot,' What Happens Next?

"I was an unmarried pregnant woman," James said at a tearful press conference, "and they took away my livelihood, they stripped me of my dignity, and humiliated me."

Allred, the famed defender of scorned women, who's filed suits against Arnold Schwarzenegger, Herman Cain and Tiger Woods, among others, is now suing the private evangelical college, claiming that it discriminated against James based on her gender, pregnancy and marital status.

"This is really mainly going to have an adverse impact on women, because how would they know the couples are having pre-marital sex?" Allred explained. "How would they know a man's having premarital sex? The way they know a woman's having premarital sex is if she's married, and she's pregnant, and she's showing." San Diego Christian College could not be reached for comment.

The case falls into murky legal territory, because while it is illegal under federal and California law to fire someone for being pregnant, or to discriminate against someone's gender, there exists an exception for religious institutions. To give these organizations the freedom to choose leaders who follow their values, the so called "ministerial exception" prohibits "ministers" from suing their employer for discrimination.

More: Oprah's OWN Hit With Sex And Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Several pregnant women have fought these cases, after being fired for in vitro fertilization or premarital sex. The problem is that the courts have not clearly defined who a minister is. Last year, for the first time, the Supreme Court decided that a teacher at a church-run school, who taught mostly non-religious classes, counted as a minister, and so couldn't sue.

But last March, an Ohio U.S. District judge ruled that a parochial school teacher, who was fired for getting pregnant through artificial insemination, did not qualify as a minister, because she was a non-Catholic computer science teacher who in no way taught Catholic doctrine. And James wasn't a teacher at all. As CBSLA.com reports, her only interactions with students were by phone.

"She was a financial aid specialist, so unless she had some ministerial duties it would be hard for them to prove this exemption applies," says Donna Ballman, an employment lawyer and author of "Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired." And while religious institutions are allowed to engage in religious discrimination, Ballman adds, they can't discriminate based on pregnancy or gender, if an employee isn't a minister.

James is now married to the father of her child, and the baby is due in June. "A child is a blessing," James said, "and our No. 1 goal is to start our child's life off in a positive light."



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Moon

I went to San Diego Christian College when it was Christian Heritage College. As much as I am for women's and human rights, I agree with the college's decision. Teri James signed a document when she was employed by SDCC. If she felt as though she could not abide by the document, she should not have taken employment there. She can't go against the document and then say she is in the right? However, I am happy for her. I wish her a beautiful life with her new child. Move on Teri.

November 09 2013 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Sero

This is idiocy. Sure, having a kid out of wedlock isn't a good idea. But I feel that this school is run by idiots. Catholics don't allow contraceptive devices so these people are popping out kids like PEZ even when not married. I think this woman should win her lawsuit. I would never work in a religious institution under any circumstances if laws like this applied to the job description.

November 08 2013 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mamacat14

This young lady signed a contract with a Christian job. She KNEW the consequences !! Private religious organizations do have those rights. Unless she was raped, she violated her contract.
Had that happened to her many years ago, she would have had it much harder. Attitudes back than were a lot more strict than too.


HOWEVER, THERE ARE OTHER SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES WITH DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES TOO. OF A MILITARY NATURE TO WOMEN IN THE MILITARY !

The Military IS GUILTY of firing women in the military for getting pregnant too PRIOR to 1976 ! Didn't matter if you were married or single.

Women who went into the military prior to 1976 KNEW that if they got pregnant they would be automatically discharged. WE ALSO SIGNED CONTRACTS. YES, WE KNEW THE CONSEQUENCES AND TRIED TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE.

UNFORTUNATELY, a lot of them who got pregnant were RAPED, and it was NOT their fault, but it just complicated things a lot more. They received Honorable discharges, but the process and later events created long term life changing events. A lot of them developed PTSD -MST (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Military Sexual Trauma.)

Getting pregnant in the military through rape, than getting discharged, is very stressful. You lose your dignity, your job, your family, and a whole lot more. I KNOW....I AM ONE OF THE VICTIMS! Going home to your family and community, added insult to injury.

There is a big difference to being fired from a Christian organization, to being discharged from the military. Shortly after my discharge, I was hired for a civilian job.... but I was promptly fired once they found out I was pregnant. Back in 1968, you didn't have a lot of choices. The military changed their pregnancy ban after 1976 (approx) and it was acceptable. Things have changed.

But the emotional damage that was done was devastating. Women Veterans proudly served their Country, and we do not deserve the scarlet letter reputations that have been given us by the hyprocrites.

May 01 2013 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rock Ranger

When all the smoke clears, and there will be a considerable amount, it boils down to she violated terms of her employment agreement.

Yes Jesus forgives. But there are still consequences to actions. His forgiveness wipes away the penalty of sin, not the results.

April 19 2013 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TnT

She stripped herself of her own dignity. She's a bad example for a Christian college.

April 06 2013 at 5:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CJ

If this is a Christian group then their actions should also be based on the teachings of Jesus. Jesus never chastised any sinner. He taught forgiveness and stopping the sinning. This woman is now married to the the father of the child. Where in their actions are the forgiveness Jesus taught us? I recall the only people that Jesus chastised and ridiculed were the Pharisees who were the Religious leaders of the day. So perhaps CBSLA should re-read the words of our Lord.

March 03 2013 at 3:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
nunya Biz

birth control. no pregnancy.screw your heads off.keep job.

March 02 2013 at 9:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
smh

I can't believe how people continue to blame others for their own stupid actions. she laid her nasty behind down with a man she wasn't married to and got pregnant but somehow this is the school's fault? The school didn't strip her of her dignity--she did it to herself! More importantly is the example she's suppose to be sitting for the students at the school.

March 02 2013 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
timeclockpolicy

Yeah but the good news is that all the men in her cult cannot be fired for skinny dipping with young boys!

March 02 2013 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hgelemental

I don't see what the huge issue is. She had a contract that outlined the expected behavior of any employee. She broke the contract. She was fired because she broke the contract. Whether you agree or disagree on topics like premarital sex, you cannot deny that one has to take responsibility for their own actions. If you break a contract, there will be consequences. It is sad that she is pregnant when she was fired, but that is once again an example of how actions have consequences. If you have sex, you may get pregnant or impregnate a woman. Don't make people look like victims because they don't want to take responsibility for their actions.

The contract was not a surprise thrown upon her after she got pregnant. A lot of religious schools have their will not hire people unless they are willing to sign similar contracts. The main purpose of these contracts is to ensure that the employees can promote the ideals of the school and set a positive example for the students. These contracts are not forced on the employees after being hired. The employees must agree to this type of thing before they are hired. Like any job, you must be able to fulfill the employers needs or you will not be hired. If you cannot agree to this type of covenant (that is discussed before being hired), then you obviously do not fit the needs of the school.

February 26 2013 at 1:35 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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