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Conscience Magazine

Conservative Catholic Educator Refuses to Teach Birth Control

April 19, 2017

Six months after being dismissed from Legacy Community Health (LCH) of Houston, Texas, former health educator Karen Alexia Palma filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Palma asserts that her termination for refusing to teach a family planning class three times per month amounts to a violation of her religious principles, and is thus a discriminatory action.

Palma claims that Legacy Community Health had, for a year and a half prior to her being fired, allowed her to play 20-minute videos addressing birth control. This allowed her to opt out of directly instructing students—an accommodation she asserts was revoked upon a change of management at LCH in June of 2016.

Asserting both that her “Catholic faith teaches me that contraception is wrong,” and that she “cannot teach a class that violates my religious beliefs,” Palma resigned in July after receiving an e-mail from LCH stating that “sometimes employees may need to put aside their own personal views to meet the job requirements.” Legacy Community Health’s human resources vice president pointed out that a dialogue about family planning was the aim of the class; videos do not meet this requirement. Palma was also offered assistance “in transitioning to another position in or outside Legacy,” should she change her mind and choose to stay.

In her EEOC filing, Palma claimed that birth control “disrupts the natural beauty of how God designed our bodies to work.”

Palma is being represented by the First Liberty Institute, with FLI citing the 2015 Supreme Court decision involving clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch as a precedent for the violation of its client’s constitutional rights. Presently, Palma is working as a health education instructor at Houston’s Bee Busy Wellness Center.