By: Hillary Schneller, FellowPosted on October 11, 2012 Issues: Health Care & Reproductive Rights

Picking up where Leila left off, let’s look at how far bosses’ take their license to discriminate. Consider a world in which our boss decides whether our decisions are morally or religiously “clean” enough for him. You may think this is a thing of the past or that employers only have objections to covering birth control in health insurance. The following are real life examples of bosses exercising their “religious freedom”—can you guess the years in which they happened?

  1. A school fired a fourth-grade teacher for asking for maternity leave based on the employer’s belief that she should not have become pregnant outside of marriage. According to court documents, the school administrator told her “there are consequences for disobeying the word of God.”  
  2. A chain of banks refused to cover health insurance for dependents of a single mother or a married woman because, according to a former employee, the boss believes it is “a man’s responsibility to provide for his family.”
  3. A school added a “head of household” supplement to teachers’ salaries—but only for heads of household as defined by scripture. As a pastor affiliated with the employer explained, “[w]hen we turned to the Scriptures to determine head of household, by scriptural basis, we found that the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the house, head of the wife, head of the family.”
  4. Two women were fired by different employers for using IVF to become pregnant. One was told she being fired because she was a “grave, immoral sinner.” Another woman—a computer teacher—was fired for conceiving via artificial insemination.
  5. A school offered health insurance only to “heads of households”—specifically, married men or single persons. According to the superintendent, the test for eligibility for health insurance for women was whether they were married. If so, the husband was presumed the head of household and the woman ineligible for health benefits.

 Here are the answers:*

(a) 2012 (b) 2012 (c) 1990 (d) all 2012 (e) 1986

If you didn’t score very well, don’t be too hard on yourself—be shocked.  The current 30+ lawsuits are not just about birth control. They are about our bosses demanding the freedom to judge our decisions—to be a working woman; to marry or not marry; or how and when to have children.

This is not even a new twist on an old scam—it’s an old twist on an old scam. When employers demand “religious freedom” and claim they are victims of discrimination, they manipulate both ideals in an attempt to turn the tables and mask what they are really doing, which is laughing in the face of women’s equality. It’s an effort to travel even further back in time—to a time when women couldn’t vote; own property or sign contracts in our own name; or make decisions about our employment, health, and education.  It’s not going to work—we’ve seen it before and refuse to be fooled.  

* For more on each of these:

(a)    Hamilton v. Southland Christian School (11th Cir. 2012)
(b)   The policy of Union County Savings Bank, New Jersey, reported October 2012
(c)    Dole v. Shenandoah Baptist Church (4th Cir. 1990)
(d)   Herx v. Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Inc. (filed in N.D. Ind. 2012); Jane Doe filed a complaint with the EEOC in September, 2012; Dias v. Archdiocese of Cincinnati (S.D. Ohio 2012)
(e)   EEOC v. Fremont Christian School (9th Cir. 1986)