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Friday, November 04, 2005

"Fired Loretto teacher files complaints"

This was in the Sacramento Bee today:

Fired Loretto teacher files complaints
She says her ouster was discrimination, violating her free-speech rights.

By Todd Milbourn -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST
Friday, November 4, 2005
Story appeared in Metro section, Page B1

A former Loretto High School drama teacher alleged Thursday that her firing last month for having volunteered at a Planned Parenthood clinic was a case of sexual and religious discrimination and violated her free-speech rights.

Marie Bain, 50, of Sacramento, filed two separate employment complaints Thursday with the state against Loretto, the religious order that sponsors the school, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and Bishop William K. Weigand.
One complaint - with the state Department of Labor - calls for an investigation of the employment practices of the diocese. The other - with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing - is a first step toward a lawsuit.

"Loretto rightly prides itself as an academic institution committed to vigorous debate of ideas and beliefs," said Bain's attorney, John M. Poswall of Sacramento. "Unfortunately, the action of the bishop, cowering to noisy fundamentalists, threatens to turn Loretto into a Taliban-style institution of thought control and repression."

James Sweeney, an attorney for the diocese, who had not yet seen the complaints, said he's confident the diocese handled the case appropriately.

"It's purely an internal matter of church discipline and is protected by the First Amendment," he said.

Weigand called for Bain's firing in early October in response to demands from an anti-abortion activist and mother of a Loretto student.

Weigand argued that Bain's previous volunteer work presented an irreconcilable conflict with church teachings and set a poor example for students at the all-girls school.

Poswall stated in the complaint that Bain's firing constituted sexual discrimination because it targeted "her beliefs and actions related to women's reproductive rights" and sought to make "an example of her as a woman, to other young women."

School officials knew Bain was not a Catholic and had her "own personal beliefs" when they hired her in August, Poswall stated.

Punishing her for having supported opposing values in the past is tantamount to religious discrimination, Poswall said.

Regarding the free speech claim, Poswall argued that Bain's volunteering was akin to a "political activity," which is a protected class of speech and a "fundamental right of all California employees."

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