Emily Herx on Today Show: St. Vincent De Paul Catholic School teacher claims firing over in vitro

Suing Fort Wayne South Bend

FORT WAYNE, IN -- Emily Herx was simply trying to grow her family.

But she says her path to pregnancy ultimately cost her her job.

After teaching at St. Vincent De Paul Catholic School for eight years, Herx was let go last summer.

Herx and her husband were trying to have a baby. But because of infertility, the couple sought alternative methods. They decided upon in vitro fertilization.

But when the school found out, she said she was fired.

The couple is now suing the diocese of Fort Wayne South Bend.

In a statement, the diocese said it is saddened by the lawsuit filed by a former teacher at one of the grade schools. But it denies any discrimination occurred.

The diocese said the main issue raised in the lawsuit is a challenge to the diocese's right as a religious employer to make religious-based decisions consistent with its religious standards on an impartial basis.

The Catholic church doesn't condone treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

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Under Catholic teachings, every embryo has the right to life. And during in vitro fertilization, embryos are often destroyed.

"The church has First Amendment, institutional autonomy," said Indiana University Professor Daniel Conkle.

Conkle is a law professor and adjunct religious studies professor. He said he compares Herx's case to one that was recently decided by the Supreme Court.

A Parochial school teach was also suing a Lutheran school for unemployment discrimination. The Supreme Court ruled in the school's favor.

But the main difference between the two cases: The teacher at the Lutheran school taught some religious classes. Herx just taught English.

"If that's so then she could argue that she is not in the same position as the school teacher in the Supreme Court case," said Conkle. "At the same time, it is quite clear that no federal court or for that matter, no state court would entertain any claim that would require the court to decide what counts as appropriate Catholic teaching."

The diocese said it has clear policies stated in teacher contracts.

Diocesan teachers must not only have knowledge and respect for the Catholic faith, but must also "serve as moral exemplars."

"The Catholic Church or this Catholic school can be criticized to an extent that it may be argued that it's not being entirely being consistent in how it's applying its own Catholic doctrine, its own Catholic understanding," said Conkle. "It would not be impossible for the plaintiff to win her lawsuit, but I do think that she has an uphill struggle."