ANN CURRY, co-host:
Back now at 8:10. Imagine getting fired from your job for being intimate with your husband-to-be. Well, that's what happened to this
. We're going to be speaking to her and her husband exclusively in just a moment. But first,
has her story.
MIKE TAIBBI reporting:
It was a year ago April when fourth grade teacher
from the private
Southland Christian School
Florida. When asked when she'd become pregnant, she answered honestly:
about three weeks before she and her husband,
, were married. A week later she was fired. And while the language in this
's letter to her attorney was old-fashioned, the meaning was clear. "
was asked not to return because of a moral issue that was disregarded, namely fornication, sex outside of marriage."
told a local reporter
's honest answer did her in.
You do stand behind the fact that you believe the teacher committed an immoral act and that's why she was terminated.
Mr. JOHN ENNIS:
Of her own confession.
Of her own confession. Yes, sir. Thank you.
OK, so you stand behind that action.
Other private religious schools have been sued with mixed results for firing teachers who became pregnant in ways that violated religious teachings; those lawsuits filed under
barring gender or
. In this case, though, the
says it's not about the pregnancy that produced now eight-month-
, but about a teacher's choice to disregard
standards and have sex outside of marriage, an immoral action.
's lawyer is charging discrimination...
Mr. EDWARD GAY (Jarretta Hamilton's Attorney):
This is not a church, this is a
...and invasion of privacy.
They went and told the parents of her students. And not only -- they just didn't say that she was terminated, they actually went and said the details.
The case has won
We need good teachers. We don't have enough of them.
If I knew her, I would tell her
go all the way
with the -- with the lawsuit.
administrators are now saying no comment, in their earlier letter they said, "We request that
withdraw her complaint and consider the testimony of the Lord." For TODAY,
, NBC News, New York.
is joining us now exclusively along with her husband,
, and their eight-month-old daughter,
, as well as their attorney
Good morning to all
Ms. JARETTA HAMILTON:
Southland Christian School
, as you just heard, we reached out to them. But since a lawsuit was pending, they didn't really want to give us any comment. So let me then ask you, when you approached the principal,
, and you said that you were pregnant and he asked you -- well, first of all, what happened when you asked -- told him that you were pregnant?
Well, basically I went in there to let him know and, you know,
my husband and I
went in together, in fact, into the meeting. I was only requesting the standard six weeks
. And as the conversation progressed, he questioned -- in fact, he said, `Well, I'm just trying to do the math here. When did you get married again?'
. And then he said, `Well, did you conceive prior to marriage?'
answered and I told him, yes. It was really -- it came out of nowhere.
You were shocked that he asked the question, you said?
I was -- I was absolutely shocked. I didn't -- it came out of nowhere. I didn't know -- I didn't think or know to -- you know, I was honest about it. I didn't know it would cost me -- cost me my job.
And when you first -- when you first told him that you were pregnant, is it true that he fell back in the chair and had a reaction?
Yes, he did.
What was that reaction?
Mr. SAMUEL TREFTZ:
It was definitely not a good reaction.
So even before he knew when the baby was conceived...
...he had a negative reaction to the pregnancy?
I see. And so then as this progressed, what really made you upset is that this became public. How did it become public in terms of how long you had been -- when the baby was conceived?
I'm not sure I understand what you're asking.
How was it made public? Your feeling is the
made it public?
Oh, they definitely did. And when they let me go, they told the entire staff in a staff meeting that I had been fired and the reason why they let me go, and then they called all of the parents to my fourth grade students and told them as well. In fact, I had a number of parents call me because they were really upset about it and felt that my performance in the classroom was a what mattered and not my personal life.
What do you say to people who might say, look, you're working at a
and -- you know, that believes that
is immoral and that, you know, that it violates standards and values, that this is something that the
stands for. What do you say to people who have taken that position?
If there was a contract in place then -- that, you know, had a specific morality clause, I think that it would make a difference.
Right. I think at least people would know what they're getting into. I didn't know that this was their -- you know, that they were going to judge so harshly, that this was the way they, you know, felt about, you know,
. I wasn't clear on what their stance was on certain issues.
So you never signed anything that specifically talked about this idea?
I never did. There is no contract in place.
, then where does this leave us legally? Where does it leave them legally in terms of this? I mean, this is a
. Do they -- do they have the ability to do whatever they want in terms of this particular standard, this moral standard?
Well, the courts have consistently ruled that a
is just like any other employer. As long as there's 15 or more employees, they are governed by
regarding discrimination. There's no -- there should be no concern here that this case is a precedent-setting case that going to get involved with the ministerial exception. Certainly the pastors and clergy are allowed to make the decisions, you know, as far as church personnel, so that's not, you know, where this case is going. There's a clear distinction in the courts, so.
You're saying that this -- between a
and a church. And so they're going to...
Right. This is -- this is a -- these teachers are serving a secular purpose, therefore they are governed by the
, I know this has been very difficult. You're holding onto
very tightly and you're holding onto your baby because it's been a very, very tough time. I know that will -- this is not the end of it. We hope to hear how this works out for you. And thank you,
, for speaking to us.