The University of Michigan Health has been accused of wrongfully firing a physician assistant who sought a religious exemption from participating in sex-change procedures and using the chosen pronouns of trans-identified patients.
The First Liberty Institute, a law firm based in Plano, Texas, sent a letter of complaint to Michigan Health on Tuesday on behalf of Valerie Kloosterman.
The letter was addressed to Peter VanLaan, associate general counsel with the University of Michigan Health – West, and Timothy G. Lynch, vice president and general counsel of University of Michigan Health.
According to the letter, Kloosterman was fired because in 2021 she was required “to complete a training module that contained statements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity that her Christian faith prohibited her from affirming.”
“She could not complete the training unless she checked boxes that affirmed the statements. There was no option within the training for her to explain her position or request a religious accommodation,” reads the letter.
Subsequent meetings with Michigan Health officials last year eventually resulted in her termination, with the letter claiming that the officials expressed hostility toward her beliefs.
“Michigan Health listed her unwillingness to refer patients for certain gender dysphoria-related drugs and procedures, her unwillingness to use pronouns that do not correspond to a patient’s biological sex, and her alleged alteration of medical records to change patients’ pronouns (a false charge that Ms. Kloosterman continues to deny),” the letter continued.
First Liberty demanded that Michigan Health reinstate Kloosterman and provide “religious accommodation” for her and other employees who might object to “the use of gender-identity-based pronouns and participation in — or referrals for — gender-dysphoria-related surgeries and drugs.”
First Liberty Senior Counsel Jordan Pratt said in a statement released Tuesday that he believed it was “bad medicine to force religious healthcare professionals to choose between their faith and their job.”
“Valerie provides excellent medical care for every patient, but she cannot in good conscience refer patients for experimental drugs and procedures that violate both her religious convictions and her medical judgment,” Pratt stated.
“It is intolerant of Michigan Health to demand that medical professionals like Valerie abandon their religious beliefs and their medical ethics in order to remain employed.”
In response to an inquiry from The Christian Post, a spokesperson for Michigan Health said: "University of Michigan Health-West is committed to providing appropriate medical treatment to all patients and respects the religious beliefs of its employees. Our organization does not discuss personnel issues and as such, has no further comment."
Earlier this year, University of Michigan Health-West announced that it had been deemed a “top performer for LGBTQ+ healthcare equity” by the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent LGBT activist group.
In the announcement, the university said it earned that designation by having training in LGBT patient-centered care, giving equal benefits to same-sex couples, advancing equal hospital visitation policies, and promoting resources for LGBT patients.
“Our mission requires us to relentlessly advance health for West Michigan — and there is no room in that mission to exclude anyone,” said UMH-West CEO Dr. Peter Hahn, as quoted in the announcement. “I’m proud of our team’s commitment to inclusion as one of our core values and their enthusiasm to keep building on our progress.”