Should Heritage Christian Academy have fired Cathy Samford for being unmarried and pregnant?
ROCKWALL — Cathy Samford, a volleyball coach and science teacher, was fired from Heritage Christian Academy for getting pregnant and not being married, the school acknowledged.
"I looked it up and thought, 'They can't do this,'" said Samford, 29.
For almost three years, she coached volleyball at the private school. Samford was named "Coach of the Year" and recently began teaching science.
But when she got pregnant last fall, the school fired her because she was not married.
"We all have different views and interpretations," Samford said. "It's not necessarily the Christian thing to do to throw somebody aside because of those."
"You can't discriminate against someone who's pregnant or has a pregnancy-related medical condition," said Colin Walsh, her attorney. "That is both state and federal law."
But Heritage Christian said this case is not so simple.
"I understand some people that would say 'It's a heartless thing to do,'" said the school's headmaster, Dr. Ron Taylor. "It wasn't easy to do."
Taylor acknowledged that Samford could not get fired for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in a public school. But HCA is a private, religious campus, and Taylor said the school considers teachers to be ministers, since they're allowed to share their beliefs in the classroom.
"The Supreme Court, as a matter of fact in the last month, has ruled 9-to-0 that a Christian school does have that right, because this is a ministry, so we have the right to have standards of conduct," Taylor added.
Taylor said Samford violated the morals clause in her contract and was not a "Christian role model" to her students.
"How's it going to look to a little fourth grade girl that sees she's pregnant and she's not married?" Taylor asked.
Mediation did not result in a resolution between the two parties. The school said it also refused to settle the case.
Taylor said HCA was contacted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the firing.
Samford and Walsh said they're now considering legal action. The fired teacher and expectant mother said she did nothing wrong, and faces financial problems now, including giving birth without insurance.