A Michigan hospital violated the religious liberty rights of a physician assistant with 17 years of experience when it fired her for declining to make referrals for transgender surgery or use patients’ preferred pronouns, according to a new federal lawsuit.
Valerie Kloosterman was a physician assistant at a Michigan hospital in 2021 when she was required to undergo training that included “statements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity that her Christian faith prohibited her from affirming,” according to the lawsuit filed by the First Liberty Institute.
Kloosterman told hospital officials that she had seen and would gladly continue to see LGBTQ patients but could not refer patients for transgender surgery or use their preferred pronouns, although she said she would use their preferred names.
She requested a religious accommodation but was fired.
First Liberty alleges that the hospital – University of Michigan Health – violated state and federal law and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Because Valerie wouldn’t violate her conscience, Michigan Health violated her rights and ended her employment,” said Kayla Toney, counsel for First Liberty Institute. “It is blatantly intolerant of Michigan Health to demand that medical professionals like Valerie abandon their religious beliefs in order to remain employed. Valerie loves her community and her job. She is devastated that the University of Michigan health system derided her beliefs and demanded that she choose between her faith and providing health care.”
According to the lawsuit, Kloosterman’s “independent medical judgment” is that “‘puberty blockers,’ ‘hormone therapy,’ and ‘gender reassignment surgery’ are experimental, lack validation in methodologically rigorous long-term studies, and often lead to negative clinical outcomes such as bone density loss, infection, nerve damage, chronic pain, loss of sexual and urinary functions, psychological trauma, and other serious complications.” She “counsels against entering in documentation pronouns” that “obscure or misrepresent a person’s biological sex” because “doing so can cause patients to miss potentially life-saving screenings and procedures like pregnancy tests, mammograms, and testicular exams,” the suit says.
“Kloosterman believes that it would be dishonest and sinful to violate her conscience and Hippocratic oath” by following the hospital’s policy, the suit says.
“This religious objection has nothing to do with the background or identity of the patient, but rather the nature of the drugs and procedures that the patient might request,” the suit says.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/David Sacks
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.