KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee teacher has sued the Christian school at which she was formerly employed on allegations that her contract was not renewed because she became pregnant out of wedlock.
Tabatha Hutson has been a teacher at the Baptist-based Concord Christian School in Knoxville since 2011. Last year, while unmarried, she became pregnant with her second child. The child’s father is a volunteer Sunday School teacher at Concord and was not asked to resign, according to reports.
Hutson alleges that in May 2017, while meeting with school Principal Leigh Ledet, she was informed that her year-to-year teaching contract would not be renewed, but that she could “‘return to the school once things settled down,’ i.e., once Ms. Hutson married her partner and gave birth to her child.”
“Ledet assured Ms. Hutson that work performance played no part in Concord’s decision to terminate Ms. Hutson’s employment; it was solely due to her pregnancy,” the complaint states.
The school denies some of the allegations, including claims that Ledet told her that she could go “straighten racks at SteinMart” until that time. It also says that Hutson’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy was not specifically stated as the reason for which her contract would not be renewed.
However, legal filings acknowledge that Hutson was asked not to discuss her pregnancy with students or parents, according to local television station WBIR.
Hutson, a Roman Catholic, contends that she would not have been punished if she was a male and her sexual activity wasn’t evident. She is suing on allegations of sex discrimination and pregnancy discrimination, and is seeking $1.5 million in punitive damages and $500,000 in compensatory damages.
The school is requesting a dismissal of the suit, and points to the U.S. Supreme Court’s “ministerial exception” to discrimination laws. The court had ruled in the 2012 case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C. that religious institutions have a right to hire and fire in accordance with the tenants of their faith.
However, Hutson’s attorney argues that case does not apply as the teacher does not hold a ministerial position in the Baptist denomination, but is simply a teacher.
“Concord told Ms. Hutson she was selected for the job of kindergarten teacher at CCS because of her familiarity with the curriculum CCS already had in place,” the lawsuit argues.
The school’s mission and vision page states that “Concord Christian School endeavors to give a completely God-centered orientation of life to each student. It strives to help produce the mind of Christ in its students and to establish a well-grounded, biblical worldview.”
As previously reported, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-6 says that those who profess the name of Christ are to be different from the unregenerate, and to keep their bodies in sanctification and in honor.
“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God,” it reads.
Ephesians 5 also warns, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient, but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no [fornicator], nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”