Judge says so-called ‘priest misconduct’ not applicable in Fargo diocese trial

.- A Fargo, North Dakota judge has decided not to allow past allegations of priest misconduct in the trial of a woman attempting to sue the Diocese of Fargo for gender discrimination. Testimony continues today in the trial of Melissa Enebo versus the diocese of Fargo over allegations that the diocese discriminated against her because, as she says, she was a woman, and had a baby outside of wedlock.

Enebo, a Lutheran, lost her job as diocesan finance assistant in June of 1999.

Benjamin Thomas, an attorney for the diocese sought to show that Enebo was, in fact, treated fairly and that she was well aware of a diocesan policy regarding behavior inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

He argued that not only was Enebo aware of the policy and charged with explaining it to other employees, but she was given numerous chances to reconcile with the Church before she was fired.

Thomas said that Enebo, on numerous occasions, refused to try and change her unmarried living situation with the child’s father and is, in effect, asking the diocese to ignore its own rules.

“Now she has sued her employer and wants to be rewarded for breaking those rules,” he said.

Judge John Irby shot down an attempt earlier in the day to bring past allegations of priest misconduct into the trail citing the fact that, under Church Law, priests aren’t considered employees of a diocese and that allowing the evidence would be to prejudicial.

To further show the court that Enebo was not discriminated against, Thomas cited a male employee of the diocese who was similarly warned about a potentially scandalous living situation. That man, Thomas said, changed his situation and was able to keep his job.

The Diocese of Fargo maintains that, contrary to Enebo’s charges, she was not fired for being pregnant but for continuing to live unmarried with the father--an act out of harmony with Church teaching.

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