The legal push to hold religious hospitals liable for pension funding shortfalls got a boost when a federal judge allowed state law claims to move forward against a Midwestern hospital’s terminated plan.

Former employees of St. Anthony Medical Center can proceed with breach-of-contract, fiduciary breach, and negligence claims under Indiana state law, the judge ruled Sept. 29. The workers say their pension benefits were cut by as much as 30 percent when the plan was terminated after recording a funding...