The Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has been mired in quite a bit of trouble over the past several years for its morally outdated (and unjust) policies, and now one of the allegations has reached the courts. Today marked the second day of juror hearings in a schoolteacher's lawsuit against the Archdiocese and the two schools from which she was fired for violating her civil rights.
In 2010, schoolteacher Christa Dias, a single, non-ministerial employee at both Holy Family and St. Lawrence Schools, parochial schools owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, became pregnant via artificial insemination. At five and a half months pregnant, she asked her employers for something millions of U.S. women ask for every year: maternity leave.
She got more than she bargained for, though, when her employers fired her, assuming Dias had engaged in premarital sex (one of the many "moral" no-nos in the Catholic Church — for women, at least). She was informed that she was let go because she'd violated a moral clause in the Catholic doctrine that she'd agreed to adhere to when she signed her employment contract, which, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, makes it okay to discriminate when the discrimination falls under something called "ministerial exception" — a pesky and vague part of civil labor laws exempting religious policies from some basic rules for equality in the workplace.
Ergo: Women who are fired by the Catholic Church for getting pregnant face unfair discrimination because men aren't held to the same standard. Obviously, it's impossible to detect whether or not single male employees are engaging in premarital sex (but they probably are). The basis of Dias' lawsuit is that that little gender caveat is an inherent for of discrimination against women because women and men aren't held to the same moral standards.
According to the AP, Dias today told jurors she didn't realize that artificial insemination was a violation of church doctrine or that having the procedure could get her fired. The archdiocese's attorney, Steve Goodin, says that Dias was not discriminated against because she signed a contract that clearly commanded she abide by the Catholic doctrine.
CityBeat reported on a similar case of discrimination by the Catholic Church earlier this year ("Unforgiven Offenses," issue of Jan. 9, 2013), which detailed a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio by former schoolteacher Kathleen Quinlan, who was also fired from her non-ministerial position at Ascension Catholic School in Kettering, Ohio, in December 2011 after she approached her principal, told him about her pregnancy and offered to work behind-the-scenes until she gave birth.
Again, her employers and the Archdiocese used the "morality clause" to defend their position.
And then there was Johnathan Zeng ("Gays, Even Christians, Need Not Apply," issue of June 13, 2012), who was offered a job as a music teacher at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) Armleder School after two weeks of discussions; Zeng even put on a teacher demonstration in front of a third grade class. When a board representative asked him point-blank if he was gay, Zeng told the truth: yes, he was gay. All of a sudden, Zeng was out of the running, even though he was already pinpointed as the most qualified applicant.
The outcome of Dias' case could set a major precedent for courts ruling on ministerial exception in the future. Last year, the Supreme Court ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, courts sided with the church in a fired teacher's discrimination lawsuit, ruling that because she had some religious duties as a teacher, federal discrimination laws didn't apply.
Some local Catholics, at least, are firing back against the archdiocese's archaic policies; recently, Debra Meyers was ordained as Cincinnati's first female Catholic priest by the Association of Roman Woman Catholic Priests, despite opposition from local Catholic leaders and the Vatican. Read our interview with her here.
America is a country at war. While the war in Iraq ostensibly drew down in December 2011, the United States has been quagmired in a war in Afghanistan for more than a decade.
But we're also in the midst of a number of other wars — cultural wars. It started with Nixon’s War on Drugs, then quickly escalated.
President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations on coal mining caused proponents to claim he had declared a War on Coal. The Affordable Care Act’s mandate that companies pay for employee contraception caused many faith groups to claim a War on Religion.
Statements from Republican politicians about “legitimate rape” and “binders full of women” caused some Democrats to claim the GOP had declared a War on Women.
And the ever-vigilant conspiracists news hounds at FOX News have exposed a scheme by Jesus-hating liberals to wage a War on Christmas for trying to remove constitutionally questionable dolled-up trees and pastoral scenes of babies in unsuitable barn-life cribbery faith-based displays from public property.
But by far the most heinous altercation being waged originated with Republican Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, who has declared a War on Babies.
As first reported by The Enquirer, conservative groups this week sent out a press release vilifying Niehaus for killing tons of babies in a mass effort to wipe out the state’s youth population a 17-month old bill that would give Ohio one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.
Niehaus moved the so-called Heartbeat Bill — which would ban all abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat — from the Health Committee to the Rules and Reference Committee to avoid a forced vote on the legislation. He also removed staunch anti-abortion Senators Keith Faber and Shannon Jones from that committee.
“I’m shocked by Tom Niehaus’ war on pro-life women,” wrote Lori Viars in the news release. Viars is the vice president of Warren County Right to Life and vice chair of Warren County Republican Party.
Viars called for Republicans to remove Niehaus from Senate leadership. Niehaus is term-limited and will not continue on in office after this year.
Niehaus blamed Romney’s loss for his decision to kill the bill, saying that the Republican’s victory would have increased the likelihood of a U.S. Supreme Court lineup that would uphold it against a likely challenge.
While the presidential candidates prepared for Wednesday’s debate, Michelle Obama urged Cincinnatians on Tuesday to take advantage of the first day of early voting, before leading a group to the board of elections to cast their ballots.
“I’ve got news for you: Here in Ohio it’s already Election Day. Early voting starts today,” Obama told a crowd of 6,800 inside the Duke Energy Convention Center. She urged everyone to reach out and encourage their friends to vote after they had cast their own ballots.
“Twitter them. Tweet them. What do you do? It’s tweeting, right? Tweet them,” she joked to the crowd.
Earlier in the morning, the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney kicked off its “Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express” statewide bus tour in downtown Cincinnati.
The tour started in Hamilton County before moving through Butler County and is scheduled to end the day in Preble County.
The bus is scheduled to make its way through every region of Ohio during the early voting period and will serve as a mobile campaign headquarters, dispensing voter contact materials and featuring Romney campaign surrogates, according to a news release.
At the convention center, Michelle Obama avoided some of the direct attacks employed by her husband or the Romney campaign, but used her 30-minute speech to counter some of the criticisms from the GOP nominee, recapping some of her convention speech.
“Our families weren’t asking for much,” Michelle said of her own and Barack’s families. “They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success, you know, they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did, in fact they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to succeed.”
Her comment seemed to come in response to an attack that the Romney campaign levied against Barack Obama after his infamous “you didn’t build that” comment, where the GOP candidate argues that Obama and Democrats are fostering enmity among the middle class by stoking jealousy of rich, successful Americans like Mitt Romney.
“Our families believed also that when you work hard and have done well and finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” Michelle Obama continued.
“No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. You see, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. … We learned that the truth matters – you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules.”
She went on to say that Americans are part of something bigger than themselves and obligated to give back to others, counter to the Republicans’ narrative of the individual pulled up by his or her own bootstraps.
Danielle Henderson, 40, a teacher’s assistant from Cincinnati, said she was a fan of the first lady’s and joked that she wanted to know if Michelle was running for president in 2016.
“Behind every good man is a good woman,” Henderson said. “Honestly, a woman is a backbone of the family.”
She said she thought the first family was a good model for the rest of the country.
Henderson’s mother-in-law Barbara joked that she was excited to see what the first lady was going to wear.
“I see trends she sets trickle down to other politicians’ wives,” she joked.
Actress and acclaimed rapper Natalie Portman played up her Cincinnati ties in a Wednesday appearance at the Obama campaign-sponsored Women’s Summit at Union Terminal.
The Academy Award-winner said her mother graduated from Walnut Hills High School and her grandfather — Art Stevens — grew Champion Windows in Cincinnati after starting as a door-to-door salesman.
“Because of that, I see President Obama’s support of small businesses as so crucial to our economy,” Portman said, adding that Obama has cut taxes for small businesses 82 times since taking office.
Portman said the Republican Party and their presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did not have the best interests of women at heart. She pointed to attacks on the Affordable Care Act’s mandates that insurers provide birth control to women and ensure preventative care such as mammogram screenings for breast cancer is covered, as well a bill sponsored by Ryan and embattled congressional candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that would eliminate all abortion funding except for cases of “forcible rape.”
“We need to stand up for ourselves,” Portman told the packed auditorium that was crowded with an audience of mostly women. “Our mothers and our grandmothers made giant steps for us. We can’t go backwards. We need to go forwards.”
Portman was joined by Obama Campaign National Women’s Vote Director Kate Chapek, former Ohio first lady Frances Strickland, Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece and Obama campaign volunteer Mary Shelton.
An Ohio Romney rep said the campaign did not have a comment on the Women’s Summit, but is hosting a “Women for Mitt” call night featuring former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao in Kenwood on Thursday.
“Ohio women believe in the Romney-Ryan path for America that will result in lower taxes, less spending, less government and more economic growth,” said a release from Romney’s campaign.
The Obama event on Wednesday catered to women, with Chapek telling the audience she knew how difficult it was for women to get there with jobs and the challenge of getting their kids to school. She framed women’s role in the election as a conversation.
“The conversation starts like this: women, turns out, we’re not a constituency,” Chapek said. “Who knew? Apparently Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, because they don’t realize that women are actually a majority in this country.”
She told the women gathered to have conversations with their neighbors and friends and encourage them to volunteer at phone banks or knocking on doors.
Strickland talked about the need to reconcile qualities traditionally seen as masculine — like power — with those seen as feminine — like love.
She also took the opportunity to riff on a statement made by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said political wives were heroes because while they’re husbands were on stage in the limelight, they were at home doing things like laundry.
“I even did the laundry last night so I could come here today,” Strickland said. “Even (former Gov.) Ted does the laundry.”
Summit attendee Ray Boston, a 67-year-old retired writer for AT&T, said Natalie Portman’s presence caught his eye.
“I’m a celebrity photo enthusiast,” he said. “Nothing’s official until I’ve taken a picture of it.”
Boston said he didn’t vote in 2008, but felt the upcoming November election was too important to sit out. He said he was leaning toward voting for Obama and liked his health care overhaul, but was opposed to the president’s views on gay marriage for religious reasons.
Gwen McFarlin, who works in health care administration, said she was there to support President Obama. She supports his health care overhaul, but thinks it’s a first step to further changes.
She said she was encouraged by the diversity of the women in attendance.
“For me, I’m sure the women who are here represent all the world, not one issue,” she said. “We’re here as a group of women working to empower all the U.S. and the world.”
Cincinnati officials will
hold a press conference Thursday to announce that the city will receive a $3
million federal grant to address lead paint problems in apartments and houses.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the grant to the city’s Community Development Department. City staffers will work with some local nonprofit agencies in allocating the funds.
At least 240 residential units will be able to have lead abatement completed, officials said.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. will formally accept the money, which is the fourth lead-related HUD grant given to Cincinnati, in council chambers at 10 a.m. Thursday. The chambers are located on the third floor of City Hall, 801 Plum St., downtown.
Representatives from the agencies that will help the city use the money also are expected to attend. They include Price Hill Will, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, Cincinnati Housing Partners, People Working Cooperatively, Working In Neighborhoods and the Northside Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.
Lead poisoning is the leading environmentally induced illness in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. At greatest risk are children under the age of six because they are undergoing rapid neurological and physical development.
The United States banned the use of lead in household paint in 1978, but it often can be found on the walls of dwellings in cities with older housing stock like Cincinnati.
An estimated 19,000 children under age six in Ohio have unsafe levels of lead in their blood, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group. The number includes an estimated 1,400 children in Hamilton County.
A nonpartisan think tank that advocates for poor and working class families is urging that Ohio adopt its own version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The group, Policy Matters Ohio, said a state version of the federal tax credit, set at 10 percent, would divert just $210 million from Ohio’s coffers but would benefit 949,000 low-income working families across the state. Such a credit would provide families with an average of $221 each, which Policy Matters Ohio described as “modest but helpful.”
Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have Earned Income Tax Credits, ranging from 3.5 percent to 50 percent of the federal credit.
“A state EITC program enables families to work and build assets while reducing the impact of regressive income tax changes,” said a statement released by Policy Matters Ohio.
“A state EITC makes sense because recent changes to the personal income tax have provided greater tax reductions for higher-income earners than they have for lower- and middle-income families,” the statement continued.
The federal EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and medium-income individuals and couples, and is considered the nation’s largest poverty relief program. When the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who qualify and claim the credit.
To qualify for the EITC, a recipient must have earned income of $49,000 or less. The credit is worth significantly more for families with children and is refundable, which means families receive cash refunds above their tax liability.
Created in 1975, the federal EITC is aimed at helping lift families with children about the poverty level, along with offsetting the burden of Social Security taxes and maintaining an incentive for people to work.
In Ohio, 949,692 people currently claim the federal EITC. The credit generates $2.1 billion for state residents, and the average refund is $2,211.
Founded in 2000, Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization that seeks to create “a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio,” through research and policy advocacy.
Based in Cleveland and Columbus, the organization is funded primarily through grants from groups like the Ford Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Corp. for Enterprise Development and others.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what Republican House Speaker John Boehner said would be priority No. 1 for Republicans after sweeping the House of Representatives and many state legislatures in 2010. This, Republicans said, was why they were elected: People wanted to see changes in the economy fast.
But, apparently, there was one other priority.
Almost immediately after coming into office in 2011, Virginia Republicans set the national stage for vital women’s health issues. House Bill 1 — the first bill Virginia Republicans chose to take on — was a personhood bill, a bill that define life beginning at conception. Not only would the bill have banned abortion, it would also have banned the birth control pill, which sometimes prevents birth by stopping the implantation of a fertilized egg.
An impartial observer might wonder why a personhood bill would be a top Republican priority. After all, the same election that put all these Republicans in power also had a personhood bill overwhelmingly rejected in Mississippi — a state so socially conservative that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to make interracial marriage illegal, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.
Nonetheless, this was the issue Virginia Republicans decided to give serious attention. In an economy with a 9 percent unemployment rate at the time, this was the most important issue to Virginia Republicans.
Ohio wasn’t much luckier with its crop of Republicans. Five months after inauguration, the Ohio House passed its “heartbeat” bill, or H.B. 125. To this day, it’s the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Not only would it ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.
Ohio and Virginia were not alone. Republicans were pushing anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills all around the nation. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas all made national headlines with their own bills. In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortions, according to ABC News. At the federal level, Republicans have made funding for Planned Parenthood a top issue time and time again, and insurance companies covering contraception recently became such a big issue that the White House had to step in.
So much for keeping the government out of health care. The same political party that clamored for small government now couldn’t wait to regulate women’s health care. Apparently, the economy is too much for the government to handle, but every woman’s uterus is fair game.
There has been some backlash. After Virginia tried to pass a bill that would force doctors to give patients seeking abortion a transvaginal ultrasound, women’s health advocates in states across the nation organized protests, leading to governors and state legislatures beginning to back down in their rhetoric. Even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who originally supported the transvaginal ultrasound bill, has been downplaying his involvement in Virginia’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills.
Now, Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, is facing some of the backlash. In a recent Gallup poll, women came out severely against Romney. In the category of women under 50, Obama held 60 percent of voters, while Romney held only 30 percent. That’s right, Obama now leads with women under 50 by a two-to-one margin.
But while that may stop some rhetoric, the bills and laws are still coming forward. The Ohio heartbeat bill is still being pushed by some Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and a personhood initiative could show up in Ohio’s 2012 ballot after a stamp of approval from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mississippi also plans to reintroduce its personhood initiative in the 2012 ballot, and other states are beginning to pass around petitions for their own initiatives as well.
In the end, one is left to wonder what could stop social conservatives. Public backlash and poor polling don’t seem to be enough to stop the Republican war on women, and in some cases it might have actually emboldened them.