Monday, May 28, 2007

Diocese's Firing Of Youth Protection Advocate Upheld

In O'Connor v. Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Phoenix, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38141 (D AZ, May 24, 2007), an Arizona federal district court dismissed a Title VII claim, finding that the termination of a Youth Protection Advocate by the Diocese of Phoenix was within the statutory exception that permits religious employers to discriminate in favor of members of their faith. Jennifer O'Connor claimed that her termination was triggered by her disagreement with the way in which the Diocese was handling a particular sexual abuse case. However the court found that a stated requirement of her position was that she be "an active practicing Catholic who is in full communion with the Church". It accepted the Diocese's contention that O'Connor was terminated because she had recently married outside the Catholic Church, holding that it is a matter of religious interpretation as to whether that was a violation of the requirement to remain in full communion with the Church. Having dismissed the federal claim, the court declined to exercise jurisdiction over a related state law claim.