I came across this article, titled “Christian Schools Fire Pregnant Woman over Premarital Sex”, on AOL News just a few days ago and I feel it is just another example of the clash between the rights of private religious schools and the rights of individuals, especially women. In it, one woman details how she signed a contract to teach at a private Christian school stating that she cannot engage in premarital sex (among other things), and was fired from that school when she became pregnant out of wedlock.
“A Day Without Feminism” in our book describes how women in the 1970s could be fired from a myriad of jobs, from teaching to being a flight attendant, for getting pregnant. This may not be openly practiced in most of those jobs anymore, but it does continue in some aspects of society. Now the issue seems to be focused in Christian schools. Many Christian schools are opposed to women—or men—engaging in premarital sex and their right to practice religion freely is clashing with the rights of women to make their own sexual choices. The school mentioned in the news fired this woman for her pregnancy, which I personally do not have a problem with because she signed a contract at the beginning of every year stating she would not engage in premarital sex. She was informed of this regulation and agreed to it, so that in itself does not violate her rights, at least in my opinion. Instead she is merely violating her contract. It is a very narrow-minded and strict contract that quite possibly has no basis in logical, work-related requirements, but it is a contract she agreed to nonetheless.
The problem lies in the fact that while she was fired for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, the same school offered a job to her then-fiancé, who had also engaged in premarital sex. By doing this the school implies that it is not pre-marital sex in general they are banning, it is women having premarital sex, and women getting pregnant from it in particular. This school is using their right to religious freedom to systematically violate women’s rights to sexual autonomy while letting men slip by unscathed. It is encouraging the sexual double standard.
I believe that private schools have a right to teach and practice any religion they choose as long as they are not publicly funded and both the teachers and students are aware of the religious requirements going to that particular school would entail. However, I do not support using freedom of religion as a method to persecute women while allowing men much more leeway and virtually no punishment. This woman may have violated her contract, but so did her fiancé; if the school is going to punish her for premarital sex they should equally punish everyone who engages in premarital sex. Firing only women is completely outrageous and sexist. It violates their rights to be treated equally under the law.