A former Albuquerque city councilor filed a lawsuit this week alleging that he was wrongfully fired from CHI St. Joseph’s Children because he is not Catholic “and supports a woman’s right to choose.”
Former City Councilor Miguel Gómez contends that problems began for him in 2013 after the nonprofit’s president and CEO, Allen Sanchez, quizzed Gómez’s mother about her son’s religious beliefs.
Gómez’s mother is Evangelical Christian and did not have her son baptized as a Roman Catholic, which Sanchez found offensive, the lawsuit contends.
Gómez filed the lawsuit Thursday against CHI St. Joseph’s Children, a nonprofit advocacy group for New Mexico children, and Sanchez, who is also is the executive director of the New Mexico Council of Catholic Bishops.
Sanchez said in a telephone interview Friday that he could not comment on a pending lawsuit as a matter of policy. No legal responses to the lawsuit had been filed this week.
Gómez worked as a lobbyist and policy adviser for the nonprofit from 2010 until he was fired in February. His tenure as a city councilor ended with an election defeat in 2005.
Gómez also contends that additional friction with Sanchez developed over the issue of abortion, which Sanchez strongly opposes.
Gómez said he had a long-term relationship with a former employee of St. Joseph’s, who became pregnant, the suit said. The couple discussed a variety of options, including marriage and abortion, sometimes communicating by text messages, the suit said. The woman abruptly quit her job and gave birth to a son in June 2014, it said.
At least one lengthy text message written by Gómez found its way to Sanchez, the suit said.
In February, “Sanchez fired (Gómez) in whole or part because he discussed and gently advocated for an abortion with his girlfriend” and because Gómez considered abortion “morally permissible in certain circumstances,” the suit said.
The suit describes Sanchez as a “religious zealot, particularly on the issue of abortion.”
Gómez contends that he was wrongfully fired because St. Joseph’s is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is subject to state and federal labor laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion.
The lawsuit also claims that Gómez was defamed because Sanchez told “a prominent and well-respected official” that Gómez was fired because he tried to pressure a St. Joseph’s employee to have an abortion.
The lawsuit seeks lost wages and unspecified damages.