Michele Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Academy

When Michele Curay-Cramer, an English and religion teacher at the private, Catholic school Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, came out publicly in favor in abortion, she was immediately terminated from her position teaching Catholic doctrine. More specifically, on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January 2003, Curay-Cramer signed onto a full-page ad in the Wilmington News Journal praising the Roe decision and declaring her pro-choice position. Adding to the irony, that same day her employer sponsored a field trip for students to travel to Washington, DC to protest the Roe decision and declare the school’s pro-life position.

The ad conflicted with fundamental Catholic teaching on abortion, and when the school confronted Curay-Cramer with the ad, she declined to recant her views and was subsequently fired.

But she soon sued the school, and the case went first to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal district court in Delaware, and eventually the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Becket represented the school and the Diocese successfully getting Curay-Cramer’s claims soundly dismissed on First Amendment grounds in 2006.

In dismissing Ms. Curay-Cramer’s complaint, Judge Kent Jordan of the Delaware federal district court was unequivocally clear on the religious rights of the school and the Diocese, saying:

“Short of a declaration that the Pope should pass draft encyclicals through the courts for approval, it is hard to conceive of a more obvious violation of the free exercise rights of the Catholic Church or a clearer case of inappropriate entanglement of church and state … It is not the place of this or any other court to say what system of beliefs constitutes ‘true’ Catholicism or makes for a ‘good’ Catholic. Ours is a system which, wonderfully, forbids any intrusion of the sort.”