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Judge: Indiana teacher can sue diocese in IVF case

Charles Wilson, Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by an Indiana woman who says a Catholic diocese fired her from her teaching job because she had in vitro fertilization.

U.S. District Judge Robert Miller cleared the way Monday for a trial on Emily Herx's lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

A spokesman for the diocese didn't return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday.

Herx, of Hoagland, Ind., sued the diocese in April 2012, saying her teaching contract was not renewed after diocese officials learned she had undergone in vitro fertilization, which is banned under Catholic doctrine. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission ruled in her favor in January 2012.

Diocese attorneys said Herx's complaint should be dismissed because of a federal law that prevents religious workers from suing their employers for job discrimination. Diocese teachers are required by their contracts to abide by Catholic tenets, and any court review of church teachings or employment practices would violate the constitutional separation of church and state and constitutional freedom of religion, they said.

Herx's attorneys disagreed.

"No court has ever held that to be the law anywhere in the country," attorney Kathleen A. DeLaney said. "So it was a very extreme legal position for them to take."

Herx's attorneys contend her dismissal is a case of gender discrimination and of disability discrimination based on her infertility.

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, involves mixing egg and sperm in a laboratory dish and transferring resulting embryos into the womb.