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Physician Assistant Fired by Michigan Health Because She Requested Religious Accommodation for Her Beliefs about Gender

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September 27, 2022

News Release
For Immediate Release: 9.27.22
Contact: Peyton Luke, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Physician Assistant Fired by Michigan Health Because She Requested Religious Accommodation for Her Beliefs about Gender
First Liberty Institute sends letter warning of future legal action if client is not immediately reinstated

Grand Rapids, MI—First Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to University of Michigan Health – West and University of Michigan Health (collectively, “Michigan Health”) on behalf of Valerie Kloosterman, a physician assistant terminated after she sought a religious accommodation from referring patients for sex-obscuring procedures and experimental drugs, and from using biology-obscuring pronouns.

You can read the letter here.

“It’s bad medicine to force religious health care professionals to choose between their faith and their job,” said Jordan Pratt, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “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. Nor can she use biology-obscuring pronouns that violate her religious beliefs and could cause patients to miss potentially life-saving screenings. 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.”

As the third generation in her family to work in her local health care system, Kloosterman served her community for 17 years at Michigan Health.  She regularly received exemplary reviews, and supervisors called her “professional,” “very ethical,” and a “pleasure to work with.”  She treated all her patients respectfully, regardless of their background, sexual orientation, or declared gender.  In summer 2021, after mandatory “diversity and inclusion” training, she asked for a religious accommodation because she could not affirm statements about transgender medical procedures, nor could she participate by referring patients for sex-obscuring surgeries or using pronouns that conflicted with human biology.  During follow-up meetings, a Michigan Health diversity representative called Kloosterman “evil,” blamed her for gender dysphoria-related suicides, and told her she could not take the Bible or her religious beliefs to work with her.  Less than a month later, she was fired.

In their letter, First Liberty attorneys explain why Michigan Health violated several laws that protect religious conscience, including the First Amendment: “Michigan Health’s decisionmakers expressed even more blatantly unconstitutional religious animus against Ms. Kloosterman than the religious animus that the [Supreme] Court sharply condemned in Masterpiece Cakeshop.” Michigan Health also violated the Free Exercise Clause “when it accommodated the independent medical judgment of other providers but not the religious beliefs or medical judgment of Ms. Kloosterman.” For example, other doctors could refuse to prescribe opioids or diet pills without making referrals because of their personal beliefs and their medical judgment—but not Ms. Kloosterman when it came to her religious beliefs and her medical judgment concerning far less commonly requested drugs and procedures.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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