Imagine a guy, a married guy, more specifically an unhappily married guy, and even more specifically an unhappily married guy lacking a moral compass. The guy creates a discrete (ha!) profile on AshleyMadison.com, a dating website for married people whose tagline is “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” No need to prowl hotel bars at last call. Thanks to Ashley Madison, our guy can arrange an illicit rendezvous from the privacy of his laptop.
As you surely know, hackers last month released a mountain of personal data about Ashley Madison users into the dark web. Those skilled in such things have spent the past few weeks mining that data and have “outed” numerous site members, including celebrities, politicians, government employees, and something called a Duggar. Could things get any worse for our guy?
The answer is yes, specifically if our guy is employed by a church or other religious-based institution. Courts have consistently dismissed lawsuits against faith-based organizations who terminated employees for things like adultery or having a child out of wedlock. An Ohio Catholic school, for example, fired its music teacher for adultery. She filed a gender discrimination lawsuit claiming that her affair was irrelevant to her qualifications as a teacher. A federal court disagreed noting that her Diocese and Parish legitimately believed her sexual conduct was directly related to her qualifications to work at the Catholic school. The Ohio decision is not an outlier.
This may be one of the unintended consequences of the Ashley Madison data dump. Faith-based institutions may terminate employees who created profiles on the basis that adulterous behavior isn’t consistent with the organization’s religion mission. So now our guy is not only unhappy, he is unemployed. Good luck with that, guy.