Federal Court Rejects Hospital’s Motion to Dismiss Physician’s Assistant’s Religious Discrimination Claim

A federal court has ruled that a Christian physician’s assistant’s religious discrimination and equal protection claims against the University of Michigan Health – West can go forward, denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss these claims.

Michigan Health fired Valerie Kloosterman in 2021 after she requested a religious accommodation from referring patients to or participating in “transgender” procedures, including puberty blockers and genital mutilation. Thomas Pierce, a DEI director at Michigan Health, called Kloosterman evil and blamed her for “transgender” suicides.

Kloosterman’s former employer did not reinstate her. She filed a lawsuit last October.

Citing Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), the court found (PDF) that Michigan Health and individual defendants showed some hostility to Kloosterman’s faith. Pierce “became hostile, telling her that her religious beliefs did not belong in the workplace…and calling her ‘evil’ and a ‘liar’…Plaintiff also plausibly indicates that Pierce spoke on behalf of other Individual Defendants…”

The court contended that Kloosterman “plausibly alleges that Defendants’ hostility toward her religious beliefs motivated them to terminate her employment…”

From Kloosterman’s legal counsel, First Liberty Institute:

“It is intolerant of employers to demand that medical professionals like Valerie abandon their religious beliefs in order to remain employed,” said Kayla Toney, Associate Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “We are pleased that the court recognized that our claims that Michigan Health violated Valerie’s constitutional rights and federal employment law have merit and that her lawsuit should proceed. Employers in our nation need to take notice that religious employees cannot be discriminated against because of their beliefs.”

Photo credit: First Liberty Institute

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