Nurse prayingA former nurse who worked in the hospital at Duke University has filed a federal lawsuit alleging religious discrimination.

The woman, Sara Pedro, claims that Duke violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to accommodate her religious objections to aiding in abortions, administering vaccinations and distributing birth control. The lawsuit contends that Duke University's actions as an employer violate the religious-discrimination section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Pedro is seeking back pay as well as other damages from the hospital.

Pedro, who is a devout Catholic, explains that rather than assigning roles or duties to better suit her religious needs, the hospital instead placed her on unpaid administrative leave. While all her fellow nurses have been busy climbing through the nursing ranks, Pedro complains she's being left behind due to her religious beliefs.

Religious Freedom at Issue

As a Catholic, her opposition to abortion services is fairly self-explanatory. In a similar vein, the Vatican still considers any form of contraception to be a sin. By preventing pregnancy, birth control stops life from forming a bold affront to "God's design".

But what about vaccines? What do they have to do with the Church? Well as it turns out, some vaccines are developed using the tissue of aborted fetuses. The Catholic Church has since ruled that some vaccines (most notable the one used to prevent rubella) are morally questionable.

Interestingly, scientists point out that women who get infected with rubella face a much higher risk of miscarriage, and it's estimated that vaccination prevents over 5,000 miscarriages per year in U.S. alone. Ironically, by opposing vaccines on the grounds of abortion, the Catholic Church may be inadvertently causing more babies to die.

Crucifix on a necklaceDoes She Have a Shot?

All that aside, does Sara Pedro have a case? According to experts, she just might.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stipulates that employers must give "reasonable accommodation" to their employees' religious beliefs. Most often, these accommodations involve taking time off for specific religious holidays. However, it's not uncommon for workarounds to be created in response to certain duties or tasks that interfere with a worker's religious views.

As specified by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "an employer does not have to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer." Therefore, the lawsuit will likely revolve around whether finding an alternative role for Pedro would constitute "undue hardship" for the hospital.

It's worth noting that assisting in abortion services, giving vaccines, and providing birth control are common medical duties central to any nurse's job description. The hospital could reasonably argue that if Pedro doesn't feel comfortable doing any of those tasks, perhaps she shouldn't have become a nurse in the first place.

Religion in the Workplace

In today's politically-charged environment, most companies seem perfectly happy to make accommodations for people's religious beliefs. After all, what organization wants to be viewed as intolerant?

But in the case of certain industries in medicine, for example where the stakes are high and the margin for error small, it makes sense why employers might not bend over backward for an employee's beliefs, especially when those beliefs prevent that person from performing essential functions of their job.

However, the judge may not see it that way, and the court's ruling could set an interesting precedent for other cases involving religious freedom in the workplace.

**Where do you stand? Should nurses be given special religious accommodations, even if doing so inhibits patient care?



  1. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

    As long as the hospital made it clear as to the responsibilities of the nurses, she should either comply or leave for a Catholic hospital that will not do abortions or birth control...if any organization makes it clear as to its policies, it should not be subject to these kinds of litigation...Tom

    1. Rev paul's Avatar Rev paul

      Agreed tom she should do her job or leave for a Catholic hospital

    2. Ashley's Avatar Ashley

      Tom I have to agree with you there...!

      1. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

        Thank you, Ashley...peace...Tom

    3. Jerry's Avatar Jerry

      I am also siding with your answer. What she is displaying is over-zealotry at best - an hospital providing care for all (not only Catholics) has to provide the services that suits everyone, not only a small fraction of the population. She agreed to take a job there knowing well what it entitled - imposing her values on everyone is breaching the moral contract to put patient's expectations first

      "... let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." - Romans 14:13.

      If she has such strong beliefs, she should seek to work at a Catholic hospital that will clearly state what services are provided and which will not, not hinder the services provided by a general hospital and bring a suit.

  1. Susan's Avatar Susan

    My husband spent most of his career working in either Orthodox Jewish or Catholic hospitals. They did not cover family planning. We provided our own. They do not allow abortions on their premises These are their beliefs. Sara Pedro needs to get a job at one of those hospitals.

  1. Dane's Avatar Dane

    No, patient care at a hospital comes first. It comes with the job. If she wishes to work at a hospital which does not provide what she considers to be objectionable services, then she should seek employment there.

    Pardon my language, but Sara Pedro is a textbook shit-disturber, and her "concerns" clearly don't bother her too much if she was willing to work for an institution that provides birth control in the first place.

    1. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

      Dane...i agree...Tom

  1. Lee Conner's Avatar Lee Conner

    I'm siding with the hospital. Health is more important than religion if the religion compromises the health of others.

    1. Susan's Avatar Susan

      I agree that the hospital may do as they choose. So may the nurse. There are many religious hospitals that will happily give her a job.

      1. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

        Susan/Katie...i agree...Tom

  1. D. Howe's Avatar D. Howe

    Yes, seems most of us are in consensus. BUT,....why do people in this country like Nurse Pedro, feel that they have the RIGHT to work wherever they want and the EMPLOYER then has to work around THEM.!!! Remember the County Clerk who would NOT issue licenses to gay couple to get married?? SHE was supported by Mike Huckabee in person. If she had that much of a problem, let one of the other clerks working there fill out the forms,....OR get a County job somewhere else. I come from a military family and background. One of the best stories I ever heard was of a young enlistee complaining to his commanding officer that his Sgt was making them (he and his platoon) wade through a stream that this young soldier felt wasn't safe. The commanding officer told him, "You know, I appreciate your concerns and thank you for letting me know about this." The Commander then went on to say, "I'll tell you what," he told the soldier, "If your Sgt makes you do this again you come to me and let me know." Then the Commander stood and glared at the soldier as he added," BUT, you better be wet when you complain again."

  1. James's Avatar James

    Religious? Schooled in a specific field? Working for a medical facility that follows government (western) medicine laws that state. "First, do no harm" & in contrast "Only a drug can prevent or cure"? How is pumping mercury & other foreign unnatural compounds into life forms with intent of "only a drug can cure" type mind set. Biblical teaching state, thee shall not defy thy temple. In our case they are Non-vegetarian compounds & against our spiritual path. Shes in the wrong field.

  1. Lea Weisenbach's Avatar Lea Weisenbach

    Not if it takes my rights away as a patient...I side with the hospital. I don't drink alcohol..I don't beleive in it..So am I going to go work in a bar. This is were I feel religion is just a thing..selflish

    1. John Maher's Avatar John Maher


  1. James's Avatar James

    Again, politics runs to center stage. The left attacks because their feelings get hurt. The right defense itself. The left sues for removing something that was never supposed to be an entitlement, and the right is the evil ones. Left, right, I don't care. You're hired to do a job, if your job is against your beliefs, quite. Find a new job. If you want an abortion, don't go to a place that don't offer them. Why try to force someone to do a thing. That is communist crap. Money talks in the real world. Keep the Political bull crap away from it. Go where you are welcome and don't go where you're not. Simple enough?

    1. Shane G. Lowrey's Avatar Shane G. Lowrey

      I have to agree with you, for the most part. If your conscience wont let you do your job, don't take it. For example; a grocery clerk who cant ring up/touch alcohol or pork, a county clerk who can't follow federal law, etc. In the other direction, don't expect a reuben sandwich at a kosher deli, nor, pork sausage at a halal meat store. They don't offer that. But, there is a problem in Catholic health agencies buying up hospitals leaving no options when a person that wants or needs service they refuse to provide. Hospitals are not churches.

  1. Gerry's Avatar Gerry

    Really this is nonsense, registered nurses in the UK have to put patients needs first and foremost regardless of their own personal or religious beliefs, and if they do not then they are removed from the nursing register. This nurse should be struck of the nursing board register, simple,

  1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

    Maybe she should go back to college, get an MBA in health care management, and become an administrator so she can change the rules. Then again, if she quit being such a religious extremist and accepted things as they are... Most of the christians (catholics,baptists,etc.)I've ever come in contact with (at best) went to church on Sunday and gave lip service to the rules of their religion then, but did their own thing throughout the rest of the week. Unless of course they found a way to use the tenets of their religion to prosper financially. After winning a case in court they could always tell Jesus they were sorry and be forgiven.Either that or they could torch the Vatican and crucify the pope. But if you can't serve the time, don't do the crime.

  1. Doug Frith's Avatar Doug Frith

    It's not as though she's the only nurse in the hospital, though. In my experience, very few nurses have to "aid in abortions, administer vaccinations or distribute birth control". As a Catholic, I have no problems giving vaccinations. There are nurses whose work may require that they participate and assist with abortions or birth control; they presumably are working within what their conscience permit. In my view, Sara should simply be assigned to other patients.

  1. Jim's Avatar Jim

    I'm sure the hospital would accommodate the abortion, but the nurse goes too far with vaccinations. She would be better off working a different job, nursing is not for her. All hospitals do vaccinations including Catholic hospitals.

  1. Helen Brown's Avatar Helen Brown

    She needs to find another job.

  1. Matthias's Avatar Matthias

    I agree with Tom,. I have worked in Catholic hospitals and experienced harassment from nuns. Professional job comes first.

  1. Rev. Trent M,'s Avatar Rev. Trent M,

    Gpd Bless her and for staying by her convictions. but, I don't feel she does have an argument. She did take the job knowing this would or might be part of the job description,. If she had a problem with it, there are plenty of other hospitals, clinics, and/or offices she could have sought employment in.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    If you don't like abortions, birth control, LGBT marriage, guns, booze, etc. Then DON'T HAVE 'EM! But, DON'T tell anyone else what to do.

    1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

      Add drugs and marijuana to the above.

  1. Bill Fox's Avatar Bill Fox

    The federal law requires "reasonable accommodation" for her religious beliefs. It is unlikely that a nurse cannot be kept busy in a full service medical hospital. If she is employed at an abortion clinic or euthanasia hospice, then the accommodation might be unreasonable. She has a very good legal case.

  1. Mike L's Avatar Mike L

    A less-than-interesting case. What specific religious belief of hers has been violated? Does that belief follow, without deviation, from her church's belief? Most probable is she can't articulate it, and if she can it is unlikely her belief doesn't deviate from her church's doctrine.

  1. greg van dyke's Avatar greg van dyke

    Your spiritual relationship is individual . Her moral compass is unique to her. You can't expect an employer to accommodate all religions and all religious doctrines. That's why we are given the gift of CHOICE. If our moral compass is compromised we leave the situation and find a more spiritually pleasant place to work. If your morals mean so much than you need to add sacrifice into your life and leave the situation. Telling your employer they need to change just because it offends your moral compass when the policies where there before you began working seams as though your morals are the only ones that matters. What about all the religions that believe the greater the sacrifice the greater the spiritual reward?

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