The University of Michigan Health – West fired Christian physician’s assistant Valerie Kloosterman after she requested a religious accommodation from referring patients to or participating in “transgender” procedures, including puberty blockers and genital mutilation.
A so-called diversity representative called Kloosterman evil and blamed her for “transgender” suicides.
Her legal counsel, First Liberty Institute, sent Michigan Health a letter (PDF) in September demanding Kloosterman’s reinstatement and a religious accommodation.
“Before firing Ms. Kloosterman, Michigan Health blatantly denigrated her religious beliefs, attempted to compel her to speak against her conscience and make referrals for medical services that violate her conscience, discriminated against her for her religious beliefs, and refused to reasonably accommodate her religious beliefs,” First Liberty attorneys stated in the letter. “Therefore, Michigan Health violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Michigan Health’s response, if any, obviously was unsatisfactory. Kloostman has filed a lawsuit in federal court. From the complaint (PDF):
By exhibiting open hostility toward Ms. Kloosterman’s religious beliefs, University of Michigan Health-West officials violated the Free Exercise Clause, as construed by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission…
By accommodating secular preferences while refusing to grant a religious accommodation to Ms. Kloosterman, University of Michigan Health-West’s actions trigger and fail strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause, as construed in the Supreme Court’s decisions in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia…
By seeking to compel Ms. Kloosterman to speak biology-obscuring pronouns that would violate her conscience and her medical judgment, as doing so could cause patients to miss potentially life-saving screenings, University of Michigan Health-West also violated the Free Speech Clause, as construed by the Sixth Circuit in Meriwether v. Hartop…
First Liberty also cited Supreme Court case Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022), which held 6-3 that the “Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.”
In that case, Joseph Kennedy, a former high school football coach in Washington state, would pray on the 50-yard line after games with any player who wanted to participate. The school district asked him to stop. After he refused, the district suspended him and then refused to rehire him at the end of his contract. They claimed Kennedy was acting as a government employee, and his prayers amounted to government speech.
The high court disagreed.
“Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote. “He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied.”
Kloosterman’s lawyers said Michigan Health granted secular accommodations to employees. Refusing to grant her a religious accommodation smells of anti-religious bias.
Photo credit: First Liberty Institute
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