START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
1,186,844 people care about Education

If You’re a Catholic Church Employee, You Don’t Have as Many Rights

If You’re a Catholic Church Employee, You Don’t Have as Many Rights

Last year, the Catholic Church made headlines across the country as it refused contraception mandates in insurance coverage for employees, arguing that paying for birth control violated religious doctrine and this would constitute a breach of the First Amendment. The battle proved fierce with advocates from a number of sides weighing in on the subject, and noting that in many cases, employees of the Catholic Church are not themselves Catholic; can the Church impose its beliefs on them as part of their job?

It turns out that the Church kind of can as a private employer; the argument goes that people actively choose employment in Catholic schools, hospitals and other facilities, and have the option of not signing employment contracts that might include restrictive clauses. Not signing, of course, means that you won’t be able to take the job.

Last week, two notable cases of discrimination against Catholic employees came up in the news, one in New York and another in Ohio. Both highlighted the potential dangerous of working in Church-run facilities, and drew attention to the fact that the Church is one of the few organizations that has legal protections when it comes to imposing moral guidelines on employees. While other employers may present ethical standards (financial firms, for example, can include clauses in contracts covering legal obligations as well as company ethics on certain issues), they can’t tell their employees how to lead their lives, and the Church does.

In Ohio, Kathleen Quinlan was fired from her position as a first grade teacher at Ascension Catholic School after she became pregnant. Sounds like a clear cause of pregnancy discrimination and cause for legal action, but the Church says the fact that she was unmarried made her an unfit role model for her students, and thus the firing was justified. She’s suing the diocese, arguing that her firing violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, while the Church is defending itself under a “ministerial exception.” That’s right;  the Church can skate around anti-discrimination laws if it can find a religious reason, and it’s done just that before, with the blessing of no less than the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in New York, Mark Krolikowski was fired after 32 years of teaching after she was forced to come out as transgender to school officials. They called her “worse than gay” and informed her that she shouldn’t transition at work or appear as a woman, and then they released her from her duties. She’s suing for discrimination, because she’s fortunate enough to work in a region where gender is a protected employment class, something which is not the case across the U.S. The Church will undoubtedly pursue a ministerial exception in her case just as it has in similar discrimination suits.

Employees of the Catholic Church, whether or not they are Catholic, are stranded with few rights when it comes to employment disputes, because the Church has tremendous legal clout. It can afford to hire the attorneys needed to demonstrate and prove a ministerial exception, and it’s not afraid to throw its weight around in court to set precedents that will make future suits harder for employees to pursue.

Labor organizing and advocacy must include rights for employees in these situations, because a balance needs to be struck: while infringements on religious freedom shouldn’t be tolerated, neither should firings of competent, skilled, enthusiastic employees who don’t follow the teachings of a given faith, or who interpret it differently than Church leaders. That, too, is an infringement of religious freedom, after all.

Related articles:

Catholic Colleges Up In Arms Over Contraception Ruling

Teacher Fired From Catholic School for Using Artificial Insemination

School Fires Teacher for Not Opposing Gay Marriage

Read more: , , , ,

Photo credit MonkeyMyshkin

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
4:41AM PDT on Sep 29, 2015

Excellent blog here. It’s out-of-the-way quality writing. If truth be told I appreciate the people like you! Take care Jupiter pediatric dentists

12:30AM PDT on Sep 16, 2015

I love the way you write your post. Each and everything is simply perfect. Thanks aspire triton

3:07AM PDT on Sep 11, 2015

Keep on great working!! I didn’t expect that I will get such great thing from here. kitchen remodeling contractors Moore

11:40PM PDT on Sep 7, 2015

Thanks for the post. Anyway I will further check this out on the same place! Auto repair Overland Park

10:38PM PDT on Aug 26, 2015

Hi, I really consider this is an admirable blog. I truly love the way of posting. Sierra Vista hvac

9:55PM PDT on Aug 26, 2015

Thanks for such superb info; this in actual fact comes in handy. Urbandale carpet cleaners

2:39AM PDT on Aug 24, 2015

Keep the ball rolling you have done the great job here. auto body repair Folsom

2:36AM PDT on Jul 11, 2015

Great! We will be connecting to this enormous post on our site. Continue the good writing.

10:05AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

No sympathy. Everyone knows what Catholics believe; if you don't want to abide by their beliefs, don't work for them. It would be like me (veganish) going to work at a slaughterhouse and then whinging that they kill animals there.

4:20AM PST on Jan 28, 2013

When you take a job at a catholic business, you know what they believe. You don't have to work there. If you don't like the benefits, get another job.

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Subway needs to go out of business! As if this current problem weren't bad enough, the Dog-Killing Michael…

It is unfortunate that most of mankind are carnivores. As long as steak and potatoes and bacon and eggs…

ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!