Former Bishop England teacher files lawsuit claiming wrongful termination

CHARLESTON—Social media posts are at the center of a lawsuit filed by a former Bishop England High School teacher who claims she was wrongfully fired by the school.

Elizabeth Cox filed suit July 8 against the high school, its principal and others. In the lawsuit, Cox states she was notified of her termination on June 7 in a letter from Patrick Finneran, principal of Bishop England, which is a Catholic school in the Diocese of Charleston.

In the lawsuit, Cox states that she was fired because school officials became aware of a public Facebook account that identified her as a teacher at the school and includes posts that officials believe show support for abortion.

As part of the lawsuit, a copy of the teacher employment contract is included. It states that teachers and administrators at Bishop England must agree to publicly speak and act in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

The termination letter from Finneran, which is also included in the lawsuit, states: “As you know, [support for abortion] is contrary to the mission of the Church and our school and is materially incompatible with your duties as a Catholic School teacher.”

One of the Facebook posts included in the termination letter is a quote from Gloria Steinem that seems to draw a parallel between gun violence and abortion: “How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion: mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence. Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.”

The suit claims that Cox did not violate the terms of her teaching contract, stating that the posts are “political and/or free speech” that is protected by state law.

The following statement was released by the diocese in regard to the lawsuit: “Officials with the Catholic Diocese of Charleston and Bishop England High School have received notice of the complaint that was filed on July 8. We will review and file a response to the lawsuit with the court in due time.”