A new complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges a Catholic health care professional was fired for refusing to teach a class on contraception.
Alexia Palma, a Guatemalan immigrant to the United States, formerly taught health classes at Legacy Community Health, a clinic for low-income patients, in Houston, Texas. She claims she was dismissed in July after being placed under the supervision of new managers who required her to teach a class on contraception, contravening her Catholic faith. Palma refused, and was terminated shortly thereafter.
She claims the previous supervisors provided her with a religious accommodation exempting her from leading the class, which she contends constitutes just 2 percent of her regular duties.
“I emigrated from Guatemala to America as a child,” Palma said in a press statement. “Finding this job, where I could serve those in need in my community, was my American dream come true.”
“Through my difficult childhood of abuse and abandonment, God has always been faithful to me, so I must be faithful to him,” she added. “My faith comes first.” (RELATED: Justice Alito Warns Of Dire Future For Speech, Religious Liberty)
Her supervisors explicitly told her she would be unable to continue working for the clinic if she did not withdraw her religious objections to teaching the class on contraception, according to the complaint she filed with the EEOC.
“If you don’t put your religious beliefs aside, you can’t work here,” a company officer allegedly told her at a meeting in late June. In an email sent in June of this year, the same superior wrote that “sometimes employees may need to put aside their own personal beliefs or views in order to meet the job requirements.”
Several of her superiors also attempted to dissuade her of her convictions, by arguing that the Bible was written before contraception existed, and that many Catholics use birth control despite official church teachings on the subject.
“The company gave Alexia an ultimatum – violate your faith or be fired,” said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, the religious freedom law firm representing Palma. “That’s a violation of federal law and it is blatant religious discrimination.”
LCH strongly contests Palma’s version of events.
“Legacy’s mission is to serve the health care needs of our community, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay and without judgment,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We also respect and value diversity in our staff, which extends to matters of faith.”
The spokesman added that they are also reviewing her personnel file.
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