When Tiarra Dawson got pregnant, she thought she was doing the right thing by letting her employer know.
Even though being a pregnant employee in the United States can be difficult, especially considering how little maternity leave new mothers receive, Dawson figured her job as a pre-school teacher was safe.
Unfortunately, Dawson was mistaken, as she learned when Greenway Daycare and Preschool in Virginia fired her in front of her entire class. Not because she was pregnant, of course — because she had premarital sex.
"I thought I was doing the right thing telling them I was pregnant," said Dawson, 20. "But I was told to get married or to find a new job."
Because the pre-school is affiliated with Greenway Spirit and Word Fellowship, a Southern Baptist denomination, Dawson was violating the church's moral code — which is not a contract, like the kind many religious schools have — by not only having sex before marriage, but by getting pregnant as a result.
"The day care is a mission of the church and employees must abide by the Christian values of our church," said the Rev. Robert Vineyard, pastor of Greenway. "We hold our employees to a higher biblical standard, and the Bible clearly tells us that sex outside of marriage is wrong."
As a result of her firing, at least two parents have pulled their children from the preschool in protest. More are thinking about it, and oddly enough, their own religious beliefs are a driving force in their decisions.
"I don't agree with [Dawson's firing] at all," said Kim Harshaw, whose 4-year-old has been attending the preschool for a year. "This is a young girl who needs a support system. How can you be a Christian and help people and they're not helping that girl?"
Because religious organizations are well within their rights to hire and fire as they please without facing discrimination lawsuits, Greenway's inherent reasoning for firing Dawson was completely legal. However, they are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex and pregnancy, so that's where problems may arise.
Vineyard doesn't seem to be worried, saying, "Political correctness for a genuine Christian is a moot point."
Luckily, Dawson was able to find work just a few days later at another preschool without a religious affiliation, but still resents the way her previous job ended.
"I wouldn't have left those children like that. I was very close to my children," she said. "I left footprints on my children, and they left their footprints on me."