Thursday, February 22, 2007

State Admin Law Judge PC, but Wrong in Xavier Case

A State of Wisconsin A.L. judge, James Schacht, has inserted himself between Church and State by issuing a 'probable cause' determination in the case of Xavier High School of Appleton. We've mentioned this case a couple of times in the past.

An administrative law judge has found probable cause that ACES/Xavier, Appleton's Catholic school system, discriminated against French teacher Kelly Romenesko in 2004 because she was pregnant.

The reality:

ACES/Xavier officials, including former ACES president Joseph Bound, testified during a hearing in October that they terminated Romenesko because she'd undergone in vitro fertilization, a procedure the church opposes, in violation of the morals clause in her teaching contract.

The insanity of the ALJ:

"Ms. Romenesko failed to show that it was probable that she would not have been discharged had she not gotten pregnant" but that "... by considering Ms. Romenesko's pregnancy, even in part, as a factor in his (Bound's) decision to terminate her employment, ACES/Xavier discriminated against her on the basis of sex."

Nope. Romenesko was bound by a contract which included a "morals" clause--a very common situation. So happens that she engaged in conduct which is a serious violation of Church teaching--obtaining in vitro fertilization. Such conduct resulted in pregnancy, to be sure. But "sex" discrimination? Schacht grasped at a handy straw by reasoning backwards from the fact that Romenesko is female, and in so doing, is attempting to break the contract.

The parties have 14 days to notify the state Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division if they're interested in mediation.

Not too surprisingly, Romenesko's attorney would LOVE a settlement:

Jim Jones, Romenesko's attorney, said he needs to discuss the next step with his client, but he is inclined toward mediation.

The school's lawyer disagrees:

Gregory Gill Sr., who represents ACES/Xavier, said he hasn't discussed mediation with Jones and doesn't think this kind of case "readily lends itself to settlement." It might be best, he said, to use an evidentiary hearing so legal issues can be put to rest.

The State cannot be allowed to insert itself into what is clearly a religious matter, regardless of its claim to such authority. Schacht is wrong.

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