EUGENE, Ore. ― A private Christian university in Eugene is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former assistant professor who says she was fired for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
Attorneys for Northwest Christian University filed documents last week denying the allegation and saying the university can’t be held liable because of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause, reported The Register-Guard.
In August, Coty Richardson filed a lawsuit against NCU in Lane County Circuit Court. It was later moved to a federal court in Eugene, where Richardson filed a complaint asserting federal civil rights violations and asking for up to $10 million in damages.
The former exercise science professor says she told university officials about her pregnancy in May and they demanded that she either break up with the unborn baby’s father or marry him immediately.
She refused and was fired in July.
NCU attorneys Karen Vickers and Blake Fry denied the allegations in the Thursday court filing and say Richardson hasn’t made a valid legal claim.
They did not respond to requests for comment. In an email, university President Joseph Womack said he and other officials could not comment on the pending lawsuit.
“We’ve seen the answer, and nothing in it surprises us,” said Jason Rittereiser, a Seattle attorney who represents Richardson.
The lawsuit says NCU’s vice president for academic affairs and faculty dean, Dennis Lindsay, wrote in Richardson’s termination letter that “sexual relations outside of marriage is contrary to the university’s core values.”
NCU’s response doesn’t dispute the letter, but it says that the actions that ended Richardson’s employment “were taken for a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason.”
The filing does not explicitly say what the reason was.