Pregnant, unmarried and now fired from Christian school. Discrimination or within school’s discretion?

Not sure what to make of this news story since I know that private religious schools have expectations of their staffs built into their employment contracts.

Read it and let us know what you think:

From Huffington Post: (Where you can see the ABC report from which this posting was drawn and hear both sides tell their story.)

Cathy Samford, once a 29-year-old teacher at Heritage Christian Academy in Rockwall, Tex., was fired after she and her school discovered last fall that she had become pregnant out of wedlock. Now, Samford is speaking out in her defense — saying she was “totally shocked,” ABC News reports.  Samford told ABC News that she and her fiance were planning to get married, but complications arose and the wedding had to be delayed.

“I’m not just some teacher that went out to a bar and go pregnant and went back to school saying it’s okay,” Samford told ABC. “I was in a committed relationship the whole time and probably would have been married if things had gone differently and this would be a non-situation.”

When she approached school officials concerning missing part of the basketball season, which she was set to coach, Samford said they responded by telling her she was terminated, devastating the science teacher.

“I didn’t think I would lose my job,” Samford told the network. “I was in shock and devastated and that’s when I said, ‘If this is the problem, I’m willing, and so is my fiancé, to go ahead and get married. That wasn’t the issue. We were going to get married regardless.”

Colin Walsh, Samford’s attorney, told WFAA-TV the school’s actions are illegal. “You can’t discriminate against someone who’s pregnant or has a pregnancy-related medical condition,” Walsh told the station. “That is both state and federal law.”

Dr. Ron Taylor, the school’s headmaster, told WFAA it wasn’t an easy decision to make but because HCA is a private Christian school, they consider and expect their teachers to be ministers as well.  “It’s not that she’s pregnant. The issue here is being an unmarried mother,” Taylor told ABC News. “Everything that we stand for says that we want our teachers, who we consider to be in the ministry, to model what a Christian man or woman should be.”

This incident comes in the wake of a similar issue involving Jarretta Jamilton, a fourth grade teacher at Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Fla., who was fired after school officials discovered that she conceived her child before her and her husband married.  After taking legal action, a federal judge ruled against Hamilton, claiming she “failed to prove she was treated differently than other Southland employees who engaged in premarital sex.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

100 comments Add your comment

Jeff

April 12th, 2012
2:24 pm

I know my employer has a right to terminate my employment for “any detrimental reason or no reason at all, at any time”.

I hate it for her, but……..

Welcome to the real world.

Debora

April 12th, 2012
2:24 pm

I bet they look the other way when the teacher is a male and his girlfriend is knocked up.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 12th, 2012
2:27 pm

I feel for her, but it is a private religious school with their own contract. One does wonder, though, if she had gotten and abortion, would that then have made it all better?

[...] school for …Christian school fires volleyball coach for out-of-wedlock pregnancyFox NewsPregnant, unmarried and now fired from Christian school. Discrimination or …Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Cathy Samford Fired by Christian School for Unmarried Pregnancy; [...]

T-Square

April 12th, 2012
2:37 pm

It seems to me that the Federal Courts have already solved this one for us pretty neatly.

“After taking legal action, a federal judge ruled against Hamilton, claiming she “failed to prove she was treated differently than other Southland employees who engaged in premarital sex.””

Not sure what the issue is then. Debora, if she could prove that, then it seems that she would have a case, if not, and you have no concrete evidence, you’re just trying to pull something out of nothing.

Metro Coach

April 12th, 2012
2:43 pm

Debora, good try on extending this stupid “war on women” stuff. Tomorrow’s talking points will be in your email tonight. Keep towing the party line. The school had every right to kick her to the curb, its too bad public schools can’t do the same. There was a lower elementary teacher in a county near Atlanta who got knocked up and went through a whole school year pregnant. Imagine trying to explain to your less than 10 year old why Mrs. So and So has a big belly and no wedding ring. People are free to make their own personal choices, but those choices have consequences.

Scott Fresno

April 12th, 2012
2:46 pm

Apparently, the lesson is: go get an abortion. Great way for the school to spread Christian values.

Diane

April 12th, 2012
2:50 pm

I don’t understand why this teacher feels she can make excuses for not following rules, but she would hold her students accountable for them.
If “complications arise” and students don’t adhere to school rules or “complications arise” and they can’t make tuition payment, school’s don’t overlook that. They will send them packing.
The only difference I can see, is that the student’s wouldn’t be shocked, even they know that there are consequences for not following rules.

Clueless

April 12th, 2012
2:53 pm

She HAD to delay her wedding, and then all of a sudden she could have gotten married any old time? I don’t understand?

jconservative

April 12th, 2012
3:02 pm

The Supreme Court ruled in January 2012 in the case “EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School” that a private church school could decide who its ministers are and the circumstances under which they could be hired/fired. The ruling was 9-0.

In this particular case we are discussing the school’s headmaster said they were a private Christian school, and that they did consider and expect their teachers to be ministers as well as teachers. There is not enough detail in this story to tell if this case would meet the strict standard the Court set in Hosanna-Tabor.

But the Court’s 9 – 0 vote was telling. Government has no role in religion.

d

April 12th, 2012
3:14 pm

Not that I condone the school’s actions, they have every right to do what they did.

Tarty Teacher

April 12th, 2012
3:15 pm

Our choices have consequences.

Scott

April 12th, 2012
3:21 pm

Clearly the woman’s actions were morally wrong. Have the wedding first, then have sex… don’t blame your mistakes on scheduling. Clearly a school with moral expectations has legal grounds to fire her. They could have been more forgiving perhaps, but teachers are role models.

AlreadySheared

April 12th, 2012
3:22 pm

“I was in a committed relationship the whole time….”

How dumb is that? When you literally stand up in front of God and everybody and promise to love, honor and cherish, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, foresaking all others, as long as you both shall live, THEN you’re in a committed relationship.
(of course, even the above turns out to be not so binding, but it’s a start)

Kids model what they see. Of course her Christian school was right to fire her.

Douglas Gray

April 12th, 2012
3:23 pm

It has nothing to do with religion per se; the issue is whether she or the School breached their employment contract. How explicit was the contract in saying what is acceptable and what is not? If the School, after the fact, says that “they expect their teachers to be ministers”, but they didn’t specify in the contract, then she could win a case against them.

Archie@Arkham Asylum

April 12th, 2012
3:38 pm

This is a private school that doesn’t receive government money. As such, they can hire and fire as they will unless this is something that EEOC can get involved in. Just another example of “Murphy’s Golden Rule,” which is as follows: “Whoever has the gold, makes the rules!” And as @Jeff charmingly put it and I quote; “Welcome to the real world!”

Parent Teacher

April 12th, 2012
4:00 pm

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. I guess none of the admin/teachers/others that work at the school ever had premarital sex. All of you are unbelievable.

AlreadySheared

April 12th, 2012
4:45 pm

@Parent Teacher,
Again, kids model what they SEE. Preggers & unwed is rather more difficult to hide than some other things.

Whats unbelievable is that with all the money taken to support public schools, parents have to pay additional money out of pocket to send their kids to a school where “choices” like this one aren’t thrown in their faces.

Interesting that you would throw in stoning – not a single poster above wishes this woman physical harm. They just think that what she has done is not appropriate for the job she had. And no, I am not so obtuse that I fail to recognize that you are attempting a metaphor. Jesus did stop an adulteress from being stoned, but he also forcibly ejected money changers from the Temple.

The Deal

April 12th, 2012
5:06 pm

So all she has to do is find another employee at the school who has had premarital sex, out him or her, and she’ll have a case that she is being treated differently? She is being discriminated against as a woman because if a male teacher gets a woman pregnant, he isn’t showing up to the school pregnant, and it would take hundreds of dollars in DNA tests to prove it (in other words, would never happen).

Also, many pregnant women do not wear wedding rings because of water retention. What if she put on a wedding ring? If it’s “all for the kids”, then wearing a fake ring should be enough. It’s not like she is talking about her private life in class.

redweather

April 12th, 2012
5:11 pm

This incident comes in the wake of a similar issue involving Jarretta Jamilton, a fourth grade teacher at Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Fla., who was fired after school officials discovered that she conceived her child before her and her husband married.

That should read “before she and her husband married.”

Fred ™

April 12th, 2012
5:43 pm

Scott Fresno

April 12th, 2012
2:46 pm

Apparently, the lesson is: go get an abortion. Great way for the school to spread Christian values.
+++++++++++++++++++

Really? That’s the BEST you can do? Are you really this stupid or are you pretending?

Brandy

April 12th, 2012
6:10 pm

I know nothing of the issues relevant to this particular case; however, it is different from the St. Cloud, FL, case (I believe) because in that case the plaintiff (the teacher) was determined to be a minister (a clergy person) and the anti-discrimination employment laws don’t apply to ministers or clergy. At least, that is how the decision in the St. Cloud case was explained in other news sources. I do not know if the teacher in this case has a case or not, but clearly it is different–unless she, too, is a minister or clergy person.

Brandy

April 12th, 2012
6:16 pm

I incorrectly stated the St. Cloud case, it should have read “Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School”. I think the same reasoning was used in the St. Cloud case, though.

I highly recommend not trying to type anything cognizant after an hour of reading student essays.

William Casey

April 12th, 2012
6:19 pm

Who would want to teach in such a bozo school? I love judgemental people. I’m glad that Jesus was not such a person.

Michelle

April 12th, 2012
6:31 pm

I really wonder about designating this woman a “minister.” Most conservative Christians do not believe women can serve in this capacity. So it feels as if they’re being deceptive or ingenuous about this–she’s a “minister” or “clergy” when we want to fire her, but not when it comes to the ability to pastor a congregation, administer Communion, and so on.

What bothers me here is that a Christian community is, again, placing values of chastity far above those that it seems clear Our Lord Jesus thought were fundamentally important–how many of the teacher and administrators at that school have given all their wealth to the poor, I wonder? Do they have to tell what percent of income they give to charity?

Atlanta Mom

April 12th, 2012
6:58 pm

She should have just said she was raped. Then it’s all good. A gift from g-d.

Parent Teacher

April 12th, 2012
7:45 pm

@ Already Sheared
You show your ignorance. It is a bible verse. Jesus’ words not mine. The point is that everyone sins and has fault. The truth is people are hipocrites and the one who casts the first stone is usually the biggest one.

Parent Teacher

April 12th, 2012
7:55 pm

Faith, hope and love. Forgiveness. Seeking redemption for the dreggs of society, the lowest of the low, the tax collector. These are the people Jesus surrounded himself with and helped. These are the lessons I want my children to have modeled for them, not the judgemental hyprocrisy that you typically see.

John Konop

April 12th, 2012
7:57 pm

Rather ironic:

A pro life organization fires a teacher for having a baby out of wedlock rather than getting an abortion. And because the pro life teachers did not get an abortion the lady will not be forced to have a child with no job and no health insurance. Wow, I guess the school is pro birth not pro life.

Wondering why?

April 12th, 2012
10:18 pm

I think the school had a right to fire her for not upholding her contract and setting the wrong example for her puplis. I do have a question however for all the people who have posted very righteous post, are you all saying you never had sex out of wedlock? It is always easy to call people out and point fingers a sad trait in humanity.

The school administration would be foolish to believe that a 29 year old woman does not have sex with her fiance.

TimeOut

April 12th, 2012
10:46 pm

Did the hiring committee fail to determine if this person’s values matched those of the school and its stakeholders? If it was clear from the beginning to all involved, this teacher chose to ignore this aspect of her employment. Folks do this all the time. I’ve observed quite a few students pretending to be shocked by a failing score, a consequence for misconduct, etc. all because they did not believe that the rules would apply to them. This is not a case of ‘holier than thou’ nor are they encouraging abortion or lies, unless, of course, their point of view on such conduct was not clear from the beginning. I agree with above posts who assert that the teacher’s statement that she was in a ‘committed’ relationship is laughable. Unmarried couples have no legal obligation to one another. She would have to prove paternity to force child support but even this does not equate with a commitment to ‘her’ from ‘him.’ There’s no need to treat the child like a pariah, but it is also okay for a community to say that they do not wish to employ someone whose beliefs and behaviors contradict the message that they are trying to convey to their children. As a teacher, she is in an influential position. She knew that she was not working in a public school. She knew that this was a private school with an emphasis on faith and religious beliefs. It appears that she’s just shocked and dismayed that others do not want to overlook, tolerate, and embrace her obvious disavowal of the values they’re trying to instill in their own children. A private school that is privately supported is not under the same obligation as is a public school to ignore any objectionable behavior that does not violate psc ethics. Wait a minute……….haven’t several teachers, including one or two in Georgia, lost their PUBLIC SCHOOL positions for recorded consumption of alcohol on personal facebook pages?

Truth in Modertion

April 12th, 2012
11:10 pm

ABC is running the story because they are mad that Christians are boycotting sponsors of their new TV show “Good Christian Bitches” (GCB).
http://truthtellers.org/alerts/boycottworkingGCB.html

[...] Expecting, unmarried and now fired from Christian faculty. Discrimination or … Not certain what to make of this reports tale considering that I know that personal spiritual universities have expectations of their staffs developed into their employment contracts. From Huffington Article: (Where you can see the ABC report from which this posting was drawn and … Read far more on Atlanta Journal Structure (blog) [...]

abacus2

April 13th, 2012
7:07 am

She did break the terms of her contract. However, there is a double standard. Our sport obsessed state has closed its eyes to the high school football coach who ditched his wife and kids for the former student who he began seeing when she was a student. He broke the terms of his contract, but winning 2 state championship trumps an ethics clause.

Principal Teacher

April 13th, 2012
8:10 am

Not a very Christian and forgiving thing to do but totally within the school’s rights.

Frankie

April 13th, 2012
9:24 am

Dr. Taylor….I hope your closet is clean, because if someone decide to look and it is not then you will have a HUGE mess on your hands and your school may react in similar manner as you did towards Ms. Samford.

Being a minister and ministering to people are two different things.

Don H

April 13th, 2012
9:24 am

Surely, accepting employment at a religious school implies a basic understanding, by the employee, that personal behavior must be in conformance with traditional values. How long, for instance, would a journalist last at the AJC without accepting that news must be reported with a decidedly liberal spin?

Christophobes within the mainstream media find this sort of story endlessly appealing. The rest of us see it only as a defining moment for the columnist choosing it as a discussion topic.

“She and her fiance were planning to get married, but complications arose and the wedding had to be delayed …” How pathetically laughable on her part, by the way.

Katie

April 13th, 2012
9:45 am

I find the fact that she was “shocked” to be the most interesting. She was teaching in a Baptist school. She knew (or at least I REALLY hope she did) that the Bible condemns fornication, which is sex between two unmarried people. She knew (or should have known) that all teachers are considered to be role models, and this is doubly true of those who teach in religious schools.

I assume she is a Christian; if so, perhaps she should look more closely at her relationship with Christ. Committed Christians do not deliberately disobey God’s laws and then react with “shock” when someone calls them on it. Instead, when confronted with their sin, they are contrite, repent, and do their best to make it right. According to the story, it seems to me that she doesn’t believe her premarital sex was wrong, and that’s a problem for a Christian.

By the way, Jesus did forgive the woman taken in adultery. However his last recorded words to her were, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

Parent Teacher

April 13th, 2012
9:57 am

@ Katie

It is called forgiveness. And conservatives need to practice it more frequently.

Katie

April 13th, 2012
10:12 am

Parent Teacher,

Of course I agree that she should be forgiven for her sin, as all people should, as Jesus modeled. However, she still must face the natural consequences of her actions. The many sins I have done in my life are forgiven, but the consequences remain. Just because a person is forgiven doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have to deal with the results of the sinful decision.

Parent Teacher

April 13th, 2012
10:32 am

Who are you to judge? The natural consequences are, she has a child to take care of on her own or she gets married. Parents are the number one influence and role model for their children, not teachers, not athletes, not ministers no one else influences a child like their parents. This is an excuse by the administration to be judgmental and make themselves feel superior to others, nothing more.

religion treats women like 2nd class citizens

April 13th, 2012
10:44 am

i bet if the teacher was male and knocked up a woman he wouldnt be terminated. religious organizations are quick to jump on a womans trangressions and punish her for not adhering to christian values. but will give a man a pass for the same thing..

John Konop

April 13th, 2012
11:13 am

EnteKatie,

In all due respect, do you think God would want the lady to have the baby with no job and no healthcare? Do you think anyone who gets divorced should be fired? If I follow your logic, you would rather have her get a backroom abortion and not know about it, over her having the child. No rational pro-life person would support firing a single mom over personal issues not work related, while having a child and not having any performance issues at work. In the real world even in Christian schools people deal with many personal issues…. Jesus was about not judging, love and compassion.
r your comments here

Complications my Behind

April 13th, 2012
11:27 am

Complications my behind. You go to the court house and sign a piece of paper. One can always have a lavish ceremony later.
…and no one put a gun to her head and require her to have premarital sex.
Yes, women get the shaft (pun intended) when unmarried sex involves pregnancy but hey..put on your big girl panties. She signed up to be a teacher at a Christian school. If she’s going to sin she knows she can take birth control pills …or endanger her job.
Cry me a river.
She knew the consequences before signing her contract and an unwed pregnancy is avoidable.
She needs to grow up and accept the consequences or her own decisions.

Don H

April 13th, 2012
11:44 am

@Konop, et al: I wonder if your self-congratulatory “open-mindedness” and aggressive advocacy for social misfits applies to you own daughter’s choice in boyfriends?

Or the sort of next-door neighbors you opted for in choosing your current neighborhood?

Tom

April 13th, 2012
12:52 pm

Interesting. I tried to click on the link in “Truth in Moderation”’s post from 11:10pm and my company’s filters blocked it as “hate group”.

Katie

April 13th, 2012
12:57 pm

John Konop, You misread me. Of course I would NEVER advocate for her to get an abortion. I would advocate for her taking responsibility for her actions and developing another way to solve her problem by finding another job. Perhaps in a public school or a different kind of private school? As for what God wants, above all, He wants obedience. If she had obeyed His law, she wouldn’t be in this mess. And please don’t respond that you’re sure I haven’t always obeyed His law either. Of course I haven’t. I’m an imperfect person. But I will tell you that, every time I’ve disobeyed His law, He has forgiven me. But He hasn’t taken away my natural consequences; He never promised He would. And He shouldn’t.

Parent Teacher

April 13th, 2012
1:00 pm

All sin is equal, Katie you should be fired.

Tom

April 13th, 2012
1:16 pm

If she had obeyed “His law”, she would have never eaten that shrimp, either.

John Konop

April 13th, 2012
1:37 pm

Don “The anti-Christ”

…….I wonder if your self-congratulatory “open-mindedness” and aggressive advocacy for social misfits applies to you own daughter’s choice in boyfriends?

Or the sort of next-door neighbors you opted for in choosing your current neighborhood?….

In all due respect, you sound like the people Jesus warned about ie judgmental, not self reflective, lack of love. lack of compassion………………………..
Katie,
In all due respect, you understand as women especially, her ability to find a job while pregnant is almost imposable, and with pre-existing healthcare laws even if she did find a job she would not have healthcare. You would have to agree, only a heartless person would fire a women in this condition, especially when it has nothing to do with job performance.