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."
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."
The Teacher is called to be a role model and a witness to the Gospel of Christ and, therefore, the Teacher shall adhere to proper conventions and Christian morals. The Teacher shall maintain by words and actions a position that is in conformity with the teaching, standards, doctrines, laws and norms of the Roman Catholic Church as interpreted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
... [P]ersonal conduct constituting bad example to students according to standards of the Roman Catholic Church as interpreted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.