CNN Anchor Draws Legal Parallel Between Catholic Teacher's Firing and Sharia Law Stoning

Chalk this one up to the absurd. CNN's Ashleigh Banfield on Wednesday tried to draw a legal parallel between a Sharia Law execution and a Catholic school firing a teacher for violating her contract by disobeying church teaching on pregnancy. Banfield argued both violated the teacher's Constitutional rights.

"Well if it's an Islamic school and they decide to go with Sharia Law and they decide to stone me for this, they can't do that either," Banfield ridiculously argued. "Then don't sign up to be the teacher," responded prosecutor Christine Grillo, who multiple times reiterated that the teacher had violated her contract.

The teacher in question, Christa Dias, was fired from her position with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati because she got pregnant through artificial insemination, contrary to the teaching of the Catholic church. Since her contract stipulated that she could not do that, Dias was fired.

Banfield was obviously frustrated with Dias's plight. "At what point, though, do their rules and regulations stomp all over your rights as an American?" she fretted, comparing the firing to segregation.

"Separation of church and state," answered Grillo. "You are deciding to work for a Catholic school. It's just like deciding to attend a Catholic school. You are there – you must abide by the rules and regulations or they are free at will to kick you out."

Banfield then tried to pull the segregation card. "For instance, I could go to that school and sign up as a teacher, and they can't tell me that I can't drink from a water fountain because I'm white," she bizarrely insisted.

Grillo immediately shot her down: "they're not saying that within the Bible and the practices of this religion that you can't drink out of a water fountain because you are white. These are long known standards and beliefs of the Catholic faith."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on May 30 at 11:46 a.m. EDT:

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Let's go to another school district, shall we? In fact, it's in Ohio, and it's a Catholic school teacher at question now. That teacher was fired because she got pregnant through artificial insemination. And now that teacher is fighting back. Her name is Christa Dias, and she's suing the school and the Roman Catholic diocese, or archdiocese, rather, in Cincinnati. Diaz is gay. And she told jurors in her case this week that she did not know that artificial insemination violated church doctrine.

A lot of issues are at play here. So I want to turn to Christine Grillo who is with the Brooklyn D.A. For starters, she did not have premarital sex. And that's one of the tenets that apparently this plaintiff, or rather this defendant had to sign away when she signed contracts to work at the school. She didn't do that, but she got artificially inseminated, which apparently is in the contract. So is it kind of cut and dry?

CHRISTINE GRILLO, prosecutor, Brooklyn District Attorney's office: It's contractual. This is a contractual law issue. And when you think about it, there are so many other issues at play. There is your sexuality, there is premarital sex, there's artificial insemination. People full of opinions about all of this. But when you cut simply to the point here, she went to work for a Catholic school. The Catholic school has rules. In order to work for that school, they have you sign a contract to follow our rules. You can't say ignorance. It's no defense. It's just no defense, not even in this.

BANFIELD: It's funny the school had to answer the question. What about a man? Let's say there was a male teacher who with his wife, they were unable to conceive, so they went through artificial insemination and had their baby. He would be also breaking the doctrine and should be fired?

GRILLO: According to their doctrine at this particular point if he had signed it at the time, then yes, contractually the law would state that they broke the contract. Now that doesn't mean – they said they'd never been presented with that issue. So they've never had to decide it for that –  

BANFIELD: Because the men don't usually show up with big tummys.

GRILLO: That is the point – and that is a point well taken. They may not know. Once again, it isn't going to be something against women because we are the ones who carry the babies.

BANFIELD: Okay, so it's church doctrine. But we have federal law that protects us from being fired for getting pregnant even if we intend to –

GRILLO: Separation of church and state.

BANFIELD: I knew you were going there.

GRILLO: I am. Because this is a Catholic school. You are deciding to work for a Catholic school. It's just like deciding to attend a Catholic school. You are there – you must abide by the rules and regulations or they are free at will to kick you out.

BANFIELD: At what point, though, do their rules and regulations stomp all over your rights as an American? For instance, I could go to that school and sign up as a teacher, and they can't tell me that I can't drink from a water fountain because I'm white.

GRILLO: Right. However, they're not saying that within the Bible and the practices of this religion that you can't drink out of a water fountain because you are white. These are long-known standards and beliefs of the Catholic faith. And if you want to go and work for a school that is teaching this Catholic faith –

BANFIELD: Well if it's an Islamic school and they decide to go with Sharia Law and they decide to stone me for this, they can't do that either.

GRILLO: Then don't sign up to be the teacher. If you can't –

BANFIELD: But they can't do it. Even if you sign up and sign that contract, federal law protects you. You would think it would protect you against these kinds of tenets.

GRILLO: Protecting you from stoning you to death and protecting you from your ways to conceive or – actually, no one even mentioned the sexuality. That I'm surprised that they didn't even go back to her about the sexuality. If that's within the contract, I don't know. But just what you're saying, let's say that Islamic school does not allow you to show your face, that you need to wear the appropriate garb required for Islamic religion. And you decide that, no, I'm not going to do this anymore. You can lose your job. You must abide by the contract that you've signed up to work for.

BANFIELD: I could argue about this all day because if they force me to go get my driver's license and wear that veil, I'd say no. No, because the law won't let me. But you have to come back and we'll have to talk about this once we figure out where they go with this case. Christine Grillo from the Brooklyn D.A. She is tough. She is so Brooklyn.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014