Another Setback for Teacher Fired Over Premarital Sex

Catholic school fell under religious exception to anti-discrimination law: NJ supreme court
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2023 7:32 AM CDT
Another Blow for Teacher Fired for Premarital Sex
It was a unanimous decision.   (Getty Images/BCFC)

New Jersey's Supreme Court has sided with a Catholic school that fired a pregnant teacher for having premarital sex. St. Theresa's in Kenilworth fired unmarried art teacher Victoria Crisitello in 2014, saying she'd violated an agreement to abide by Catholic law, which meant abstaining from premarital sex. Crisitello, who was engaged to be married, sued in response, citing state law prohibiting employment discrimination based on pregnancy and marital status. A lower court dismissed the case before an appellate court ruled in Crisitello's favor. On Monday, the state Supreme Court sided against Crisitello in a unanimous decision, stating that as a religious employer, the school fell under a religious exception to the anti-discrimination law, per the New Jersey Monitor.

According to the court, the school could indeed require its employees to follow the rules of the Catholic Church. "The uncontroverted fact is that St. Theresa's followed the religious tenets of the Catholic Church in terminating Crisitello," wrote Justice Lee Solomon, per the Monitor. He added Crisitello knew she was required to adhere to Catholic law as a condition of her employment and "knowingly violated Catholic law." The school said Crisitello had signed an agreement requiring employees to obey Catholic Church teachings when she started work as a part-time caregiver in 2011. Solomon said Crisitello voluntarily revealed her pregnancy to the school's principal when she was offered a full-time job as an art teacher in 2014.

A lawyer for the school applauded the court decision that "upheld the rights of religious employers to act consistent with their religious tenets." Crisitello's lawyer said the judgment meant that, moving forward, pregnant women would not be treated equally, per CNN. He added it would affect "all different types of religious entities that employ people," including hospitals. Katherine Franke, an expert in religious liberty law, tells the New York Times that the decision was expected, as New Jersey's law includes broader exceptions to religious employers than laws in other states. But she adds employers "not traditionally understood as religious entities" might now be inspired to discriminate against unmarried and pregnant women, those involved in interfaith marriages, as well as LGBTQ employees. (More state supreme court stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.