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Fort Wayne diocese told to release staff info on morals clause

Disclosure part of teacher's suit after in vitro case, firing

Herx

– The Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese will have to tell a former teacher how many teachers signed a morals clause while they were employed by diocesan schools from 2006 to 2011.

Emily Herx's request for the information comes in the midst of her lawsuit against the diocese. She sued the diocese in the spring of 2012, claiming she had been the victim of discrimination when she was fired from her teaching job at St. Vincent de Paul School when she underwent in vitro fertilization.

Herx suffers from infertility, a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. She argues her termination was a violation of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In vitro fertilization is banned under Catholic doctrine, and when news of Herx's treatment came to light, diocesan officials decided not to renew her contract. Herx, a Ball State graduate with a teaching license from Taylor University, had taught language arts at the school.

A letter written by Bishop Kevin Rhoades in 2011 called the procedure an "intrinsic evil, which means that no circumstances can justify it," according to court documents.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission found in Herx's favor in January 2012.

A few months after the suit was filed, attorneys for the diocese asked a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss Herx's complaint. The diocese argued that it is a religious employer that acted in a manner consistent with its belief when it decided not to renew Herx's contract.

This year, Herx filed requests for disclosure of information as the case progressed, specifically information about the diocese and who made the decisions to fire her.

She also wanted to know how various teachers were treated with respect to the morals clause, who had to sign it and whether men or woman were handled the same way.

After a federal judge ruled that the case would proceed, the diocese was given extra time to respond to Herx's requests. In their response, diocesan attorneys largely argued that the information they provide should be limited strictly to the school.

Additionally, they argued they did not have to provide the information at all because as a religious organization, they were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution from an "improper inquiry" into religion-based matters, according to court documents.

The diocese also argued it is exempt from disability claims because it is a religious organization, an argument already rejected by the court, according to court documents.

In an order issued this week, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Roger Cosbey said Herx was entitled to the information about all diocesan teachers during that period for the purpose of comparison.

He said the diocese failed to show any case a religious organization was exempt from providing information to the other side in a civil case because of religious concerns.

The diocese has to provide the information by early November, according to court records.

rgreen@jg.net

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