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HOUSTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Texas healthcare worker was fired from her job for failing to teach about birth control. Karen Alexia Palma, a faithful Catholic, refused to teach patients about contraception, as it would violate her deeply held religious beliefs.
The First Liberty Institute filed a discrimination charge on her behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on December 21, almost six months after Palma's firing. The First Liberty Institute is a legal organization dedicated to protecting religious freedom.
As part of her job, Palma was required to teach a class concerning family planning three times a month. Up until June, the organization she worked for, Legacy Community Health, had agreed to have Palma play a video about birth control for patients instead of personally discussing it with them.
In addition, a nurse was present to answer any questions patients might have about contraception. In June, however, Legacy started requiring Palma to teach patients directly about birth control and to start attending mandatory training sessions at a local Planned Parenthood.
Palma refused, remarking, "My Catholic faith teaches me that contraception is wrong. I cannot teach a class that violates my religious beliefs. I will always put my faith first."
Palma was fired in late June after raising her concerns with management and left Legacy in early July. Amy Leonard, vice president of public health services for Legacy, explained to Palma in an email that "sometimes employees may need to put aside their own personal beliefs or views to meet the job requirements."
Diane Dean, the vice president of human resources, sent a June 30 email to Palma explaining that she would be fired from her position. "We respect your choices and as such we want to assist you in transitioning to another position in or outside of Legacy," she remarked.
After learning she would be fired, Palma commented, "I began to cry. I told them, I'm sorry, I can't do that. My faith comes first. I really love my job and my patients, but I'm sorry. I can't do what you are asking me to do."
"I really loved my job and my patients, but I couldn't do what the company was asking," Palma went on to say. "Through my difficult childhood, God has always been faithful to me, so I must be faithful to him."
Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute, commented that Palma's firing was unconstitutional. Dys said,
The company gave Alexia an ultimatum — violate your faith or be fired. That's a violation of federal law and it's blatant religious discrimination. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this — a company can't fire a person just because the person needs a simple religious accommodation, especially when it can be provided with no hardship to the company. No one should be fired over their religious beliefs.
The Catholic Church teaches that using contraception to prevent birth is gravely sinful, which is confirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclical "Humanae Vitae."
The Catechism states, "Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other."
In the encyclical "Humanae Vitae," Pope Paul VI wrote,
Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.