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Unmarried Catholic school teacher fired for getting pregnant plans to sue

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  • Shaela Evenson was let go January 10 after Diocese of Helena in Montana got an anonymous letter about her pregnancy
  • Evenson taught literature and physical education in Butte Central for over eight years
  • Schools superintendent claims Evenson violated her contact by failing to respect moral and religious teachings of Catholic Church
  • Evenson's lawyer plans to file lawsuit claiming discrimination under Civil Rights Act of 1964

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 12:10 EST, 5 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:57 EST, 5 February 2014

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An unwed teacher at a Roman Catholic middle school in Montana has been terminated after getting pregnant, the Diocese of Helena confirmed this week.

Catholic Schools Superintendent Patrick Haggarty said Tuesday Shaela Evenson ‘made a willful decision to violate the terms of her contract,’ which requires her to respect the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church in both her professional and personal life.

‘The Catholic moral teaching is that the sacrament of marriage is a holy union between a man and a woman,’ Haggarty said. ‘And we certainly believe and we teach our children who attend our schools about the sacrament of marriage. That's as old as our church.

Ousted: Literature and physical education teacher Shaela Evenson was fired from Catholic Butte Central school in Montana for getting pregnant out of wedlock

Ousted: Literature and physical education teacher Shaela Evenson was fired from Catholic Butte Central school in Montana for getting pregnant out of wedlock

‘Not only do we teach that to the children kindergarten through 12th grade, but we're held to that standard as well.’

Evenson, a physical education teacher at Butte Central, told The Montana Standard that she is pursuing legal action.

Butte Central elementary and middle school Principal Kerrie Hellyer told the paper that Evenson was let go January 10 after the diocese received an anonymous letter about her pregnancy.

The woman taught sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade literature and physical education for just over eight years.Civil Right

‘She was an excellent teacher,’ Hellyer said.

One of Mark Zmuda's students conducted the interview after pupils rallied in support of the vice principal (pictured center) and his new husband (right)

One of Mark Zmuda's students conducted the interview after pupils rallied in support of the vice principal (pictured center) and his new husband (right)

The diocese doesn't investigate the personal lives of its employees, but it was forced to act when it learned about the pregnancy, Diocese spokesman Dan Bartleson said.

‘A Catholic school teacher enters into an agreement not only with the district but with parents and teachers ... to follow a lifestyle in line with Catholic teachings,’ Bartleson said.

Cincinnati attorney Brian Butler told KXLF he plans to file a discrimination charge with the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission alleging the school violated Evenson’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Evenson's dismissal sparked a backlash in the community, where some Catholics pointed out that even Pope Francis has been signalling that unwed mothers should not be shunned by society.

Last month, the pontiff baptized a child born out of wedlock, and in September, he offered an unmarried woman who had chosen not to have an abortion to personally baptize the baby.

‘I don't think it’s right,’ Toynet Wassberg, whose grandson attends Butte Central, told NBC Montana. ‘I know they say she was a bad influence, but I think something could have been worked out.’

Pope Francis today baptised the child of an unmarried couple (not pictured) during a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel in Rome

Pope Francis today baptised the child of an unmarried couple (not pictured) during a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel in Rome

Some people have taken to social media to support Evenson, calling for Haggerty to be fired under the hashtag #Justicefor Shaela on Twitter.

The firing comes after a Catholic school in a Seattle suburb drew attention in December for forcing out a gay vice principal.

Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish said Mark Zmuda was aware of Catholic doctrine and violated his employment agreement.

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