A volleyball coach and science teacher at Rockwall Heritage Christian Academy in Texas was fired for getting pregnant outside of marriage. The academy has a morals clause requiring their faculty to be role models of the Christian faith. The school terminated Cathy Samford’s employment claiming her pregnancy out of wedlock violated the morals clause of her contract.
Of course, she has hired an attorney and will file a discrimination suit against the school. Besides the loss of salary, she has also lost her health insurance that would have helped with her medical bills. Her legal outlook is not hopeful because the United States Supreme Court gives private religious schools broad authority in determining conditions of employment because it is considered a ministry. Just last month in a similar case the Court ruled 9 to 0 in favor of the school. That was not exactly a close call.
I am not going to address the legal issues involved in this matter; that will be settled in another forum and at another time. It is something the teacher said that caught my attention. She said, “I looked it up and thought, ‘they can’t do this,’ we all have different views and interpretations. It’s not necessarily the Christian thing to do to throw somebody aside because of those.”
What are these “different views and interpretations” she is referring to. What interpretation of the Bible permits sexual relations and pregnancy outside of marriage? Is it “the Christian thing to do” to have sexual relations outside of marriage? Rather than being penitent, she seems to give every appearance of being indignant. She claims to be in a “committed relationship” and plans to marry. Those are just words. She made a commitment when she signed the employment contract with the morals clause. It was a commitment she did not keep, because those were just words. There is a huge difference in saying you are committed and being committed.
We live in a culture in which personal liberty affords every person the freedom to do as they please; many do. I would not advocate a change in the personal liberties we enjoy under the United States Constitution. These same liberties afford the Christian the right to live as he should in relation to the dictates of his conscience and the teachings of Scripture. While Ms. Samford has a right to exercise her liberty, she also had a responsibility to keep her commitments, to keep her word.
When Joseph became aware that Mary was pregnant, and knowing he was not the father, even amidst being hurt and feeling betrayed, he still tried to do the right thing. He “being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly (Mathew 1:19, NASB).” Though he believed he had been wronged, Joseph still sought to do the right thing.
If I were the school administrator, I would do what is right for the school and its students, and what is right for Ms. Samford. I would be gracious and merciful in this situation. I would offer Ms. Samford a severance package that would provide some remuneration, and insurance coverage to full term of the pregnancy. In return, I would expect Ms. Samford to accept her dismissal and forsake any legal challenge. Since she is in a “committed relationship” she is not left alone to deal with her circumstances. I am sure the father does not mind bearing his fair share of the financial responsibility of the pregnancy and standing by her through all that is ahead.
There are two issues about this situation that give me pause for reflection. One of the issues is the fact that so many of our relationships today must be defined by some sort of contractual language. There was a time in this country when a man’s word was his bond. That does not seem to be the case anymore. There was a time when it would have been understood that an employee of a Christian school would be dismissed if he were found to be living an immoral life. Now that has to spelled-out in the employment contract and is still subject to being challenged in court.
The other issue is that many who live as they please think they are still living a Christian lifestyle. They either do not read the Bible, or having read it, believe it is alright to disregard its moral teachings. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked [fooled]; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap (Galatians 6:7, NASB).” God is patient; he gives us time to repent and turn to Him. But do not mistake His patience for His permission.