Reader Poll: “Should a private religious school have the right to fire a teacher who is pregnant out of wedlock?”

Reader Poll: “Should a private religious school have the right to fire a teacher who is pregnant out of wedlock?”

Here’s the question we asked our readers:

“Should a private religious school have the right to fire a teacher who is pregnant out of wedlock? “

Here’s how readers responded:

81 Percent       Yes

15 Percent       No

4 Percent         Unsure

This question is a result of the controversy over a teacher at Heritage Christian Academy in Texas who was fired for an unwed pregnancy.    The fired teacher believes that she was wrongly dismissed and has sought legal help.  Her attorney contends:   “It’s against the law to fire someone for them taking a pregnancy leave and you can’t preventatively fire someone.”

The administrators at the Academy are confident, if this case were to go to trial, they will be protected by existing religious exemptions allowing for religious schools to dismiss teachers who do not uphold the school values .

This is a difficult question as several of our readers pointed out.   It boils down to this question:  Perhaps the school does have the right to fire the teacher, but is it right?

Here is thoughtful comment from a reader:


My name is *Mary and I’m a director of a crisis pregnancy center ministry in Elizabeth, NJ.  I was compelled to write to you because of the last poll question I read in your newsletter:

“Should a private religious school have the right to fire a teacher who is pregnant out of wedlock?”

I found it very difficult to respond to this poll and I usually respond to all your poll questions.  My immediate response is “yes” a religious institution should have the right to fire anyone that is not living up to their biblical standards but is that the right thing to do?  Is it the right thing to fire a single Christian woman who has fallen into sin?  To deepen her crisis by now making her an unemployed single mother or maybe even worse put her in a situation were she would consider an abortion because her brothers and sisters in Christ turned their back on her.

My 10 yr old son attends a private Christian school and if his unmarried teacher was pregnant I would not want her fired (unless she was unrepentant), maybe she should be moved to another position but the situation should be handle with mercy and grace.  I would expect the school to rally around her and lead her into reconciliation in her relationship with the Lord.

The saddest thing I see in my line of work is Christian women considering an abortion because they are afraid to face their church family.  What is wrong with us?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should not let our zeal to protect our religious rights harden our hearts so that we no longer reflect our Saviors tender mercy.

A response would be appreciated.

*Mary [name changed for privacy reasons]
Crisis Pregnancy Center
New Jersey

The writer makes some important points.  As we stated, this is a tough question.   We at UFI believe it is crucial that religions and religious schools retain the right to determine the types of behavior by employees that are in keeping with their standards.  Yet we make no claim as to know how to handle individual situations and circumstances.  Perhaps that is exactly the point, each case requires individual consideration.

What are your thoughts?




  • Barb
    Posted at 07:40h, 11 May

    I love Mary*s letter. I agree with her.

  • Deborah Gibbons Nicholas
    Posted at 08:55h, 11 May

    Only if they fire every teacher who is engaging in sex outside of marriage. Having sex outside marriage is the sin NOT getting pregnant.

  • Harold Friesen
    Posted at 09:33h, 19 May

    2 issues here. firstly, when she took the job she knew the standards in place, and i know that is now in question here. secondly, she is a role model and as such she bears a responsibility to those kids. A sin committed publicly must be dealt with publicly, if not, the message is ‘do what i say, not what I do.’ The integrity of what she is supposed to model is null and void. Folks, there are consequences for sin. God is not mocked. If we refuse to take responsibility for our actions there is no remedy for us. We cannot lower His Holy standard to our level and expect His blessing.

  • Julie Sessions
    Posted at 14:12h, 19 May

    My husband works for a religious organization. He signed a contract to comply with the required standards. If he does not, his employment will be terminated. We understood that when he signed the contract. We were and are comfortable with this agreement of which we can end at anytime by leaving this employment.

    I do not believe that the organization of this woman is in the wrong for terminating her unless her pregnancy was from abuse against her for which she had no control, but if she was responsible for her actions, then, as challenging as it is for her, she must accept the consequences of her decision to engage in premarital sex.

    There are children involved in the school setting and we must think of their welfare above all else. They do not have a choice in who educates them – adults do. Sexual misconduct is usually not the first step along the path of sin. Therefore I would submit that more that this is amiss in her life and her conduct with the children is not of the highest caliber. Her very actions have shown that by signing a contract, breaking the contract, and now holding the school responsible for her poor behavior.

    I think it is time for her to step into the adult world and take responsibility for her actions. Maybe she could think of her students and apologize for not setting a worthy example as a teacher. The children would certainly forgive her quickly as children always do, and she could then set an example of repentance and change of heart. Instead, she is attacking the school that will be required to defend its position and take funding away from the children. This does not seem to me to be a teacher who thinks of her students and their best interest.

    This whole story is one of sadness. Sad for the teacher who made a terrible mistake. Sad for the leaders who were put in such a painful place of terminating her. Sad for the children who are exposed to such things and sad for the parents who are trying to explain the awful situation. This teacher has created a difficult situation for herself and the many people who have associated with her. She is continuing to cause pain to the administrators, parents and especially the children to whom she committed to nurture.

  • Harvey Rosieur
    Posted at 17:37h, 19 May

    ‘Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ Rom.3-23.
    ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ Rom. 6:23
    So we all make mistakes , but we can be forgiven. God forgives us and we must forgive others.
    This woman knew the rules but she slipped up, or did she just thumb her nose at them? We don’t know so we can’t make a sound judgement. The Board, consisting of (I trust) genuine Christians, would/ should have considered all the facts and made its decision accordingly. Yes the board should be able to exercise that authority and should do so showing both mercy and justice in arriving at its decision. Not only the teacher is a role model but so is the board. I leave it to them.They knew the facts, I presume.

  • Margaret Overall
    Posted at 21:26h, 20 May

    What would Jesus say and do? Let’s look for an example in the Holy Bible-God’s word! There are alot of non-Christians watching this issue and waiting to yet again shoot down Christians for their actions!

    We MUST do what Jesus would have us do! His will is the only way. I would hate to cast the first stone in case the one coming back at me squashed me!

  • Hilary Radloff
    Posted at 16:36h, 25 May

    I fully support what Julie Sessions 19 May 2012 above says. Further, teaching is a leadership role and is set by example – do as I do and not do as I say. The laudable thing would have been for the teacher to resign from teaching children. The parents sent their children to that school for its value system – Whose rights are being usurped here ?

  • Wendy
    Posted at 08:22h, 26 May

    This is a private religious institution, and therefore, the law should protect their right to uphold the values their religion teaches. Firing for a breach of such values has nothing to do with being kind or non-judgmental. It has to do with stating values and standards expected and upholding them. They can be kind and non-judgmental of her as a person; nonetheless, the values and standards of the school should be upheld.

  • Suzanne
    Posted at 14:46h, 27 May

    I agree with most of the comments to one degree or another. My thoughts are yes mercy alone robs justice. I don’t think mercy in this case should mean she remains a Teacher in this PRIVATE school in which she knew what code she was expected to uphold and the consequences. That is a given. I think some soothsayer out there is probably responsible for an attorney getting involved which also robs her of owning up and repenting and moving forward with her life with the benefits of the attonement, making her eqaul to or greater in worthiness than even those on the board who very well have their own sins to one degree or another that are not so obvious. That is still recognizing she will live with the unavoidable fall out. The greatest evidence of mercy could be helping her with another position, (offering her the love of Christ, charity never faileth), and her willingness to make a personal mission to speak to students about the process and the difficulties she could have avoided. Never saying because she got her perfect child she would not do it differently, but that she should have waited for that same child to come later in a set of circumstances that was in her childs best interest, knowing now, this child will also pay a price for her choice. Again that through the attonement though her robes are of chrimsim red, they can be made white and pure. Ok these are my thought. My best to her and her congregation. They can all grow closer to the Lord through this or puff themselves up in pride and indignation and move away from the Savior.

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