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State monastery faces harassment lawsuit

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A former employee of a Cullman monastery filed suit claiming she was sexually harassed by a monk and then fired after filing complaints about the alleged mistreatment.

Kathryn Preston claimed she was subjected to lewd sexual comments and unwanted touching by Brother Francis Dachs, who lives at St. Bernard Abbey.

Preston worked at the abbey and adjoining Ave Maria Grotto, a tourist attraction consisting of miniature models of locations including the Vatican.

Filed in federal court on Dec. 20, the suit said Preston began working at the gift shop about 1994 and was fired after complaining about Dachs last year.

Abbot Cletus Meagher, the supervisor of monks at the abbey, declined comment Tuesday.

"It would be inappropriate to say anything," he said.

The suit said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined in May that Preston was subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation, according to her suit.

The complaint seeks an unspecified amount of money including lost wages.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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