11:14 AM PDT, June 29, 2021
A former Catholic school teacher is suing the New Jersey school where she once worked after they fired her for being pregnant and unmarried. Victoria Crisitello was fired from St. Theresa in Kenilworth “because she was pregnant and unmarried,” according to court documents. The lawsuit, however, has been back and forth to trial and appellate courts for several years now.
After Crisitello won in appeals court twice after having the lawsuit tossed by trial courts, the state’s highest court has now agreed to hear the case after St. Theresa filed an appeal. The school has argued that it has the right to “fundamental freedom of religion.”
“Sex out of wedlock violates a fundamental Catholic belief that the school in this instance felt it could not overlook,” St. Theresa’s lawyers wrote in their petition to state Supreme Court.
Crisitello’s attorney, Thomas A. McKinney, however, said that the case is about gender discrimination and sexual double standards and First Amendment rights, The New York Times reported.
McKinney also said that the school made no attempt to see if there are any men on staff engaging in premarital sex and that the only proof it had of that with Crisitello was her pregnancy. He argued that under those circumstances only women can be punished.
“If you’re going to punish someone for doing something,” he told the paper, “it has to be applied equally and evenly.”
Crisitello was fired in 2014 after asking for an increase in pay because she was pregnant. Her daughter is now 7 years old.
Last July, the Supreme Court ruled in “Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru” that federal employment discrimination laws do not apply to teachers at church-run schools if their duties are related to religious instruction. Crisitello taught art, however.
“Religious institutions of many faiths in this state are now at risk of being swept into the vortex of employment litigation, contrary to the constitutional vision regarding the separation of church and state,” the petition read.
The school argued in its petition that Crisitello’s case falls under that decision.
Crisitello has had her daughter baptized as Catholic, and said her attorney said he doesn’t look at their lawsuit as “an attack on the Catholic Church.”