Christian PA sues university hospital after being fired for refusing to assist with ‘gender assignment’ referrals

DEI Program Director Thomas Pierce told Kloosterman that she 'could not take the Bible or her religious beliefs to work,' and called her 'evil' for adhering to Christian beliefs.

The hospital required Kloosterman to complete additional training that included 'a requirement to affirm statements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity.'

Physician Assistant Valerie Kloosterman filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan Health-West (UMHW) last week claiming that she was fired for her Christian beliefs, which prohibit her from using preferred pronouns and recommending “gender transitioning” procedures. 

Formerly known as Metropolitan Hospital, UMHW became affiliated with the University of Michigan Health System in 2016. Subsequentially, leadership changed resulting in new required training. 

In 2018, Kloosterman was informed that she must complete training on how to treat LGBTQ+ patients. 

The hospital required Kloosterman to complete additional training in 2021 that included “a requirement to affirm statements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity that her Christian faith prohibited her from affirming.”

There was no option to choose an alternative or “request a religious accommodation.” If the training module was left incomplete after June 30, 2021, Kloosterman was informed she would be terminated. 

[RELATED: UPDATE: Vanderbilt University to stop gender transition surgery on minors]

Kloosterman requested to meet with the vice president of the DEI Department Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker, who is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, but Booker was unable to meet until after the deadline. 

“Defendant Booker was not available to meet until July 1, after the training was due, so Ms. Kloosterman decided to complete the training module and to explain her position to the University of Michigan Health-West separately,” the lawsuit states. 

During a meeting on July 1, Booker claimed Kloosterman was “‘uncomfortable’ seeing gay and lesbian patients” despite Kloosterman’s objections that “during her 17 years of employment” she had never had an issue with LGBTQ patients. 

After the initial meeting with Booker, Kloosterman attended another meeting on July 29 with representatives from the UMHW DEI and HR departments. 

One of the defendants listed in the lawsuit, DEI Program Director Thomas Pierce, attended the meeting and, “grew hostile, visibly angry with tight fists and a flushed demeanor, and attacked Ms. Kloosterman’s religious beliefs.”

Pierce told Kloosterman that she “could not take the Bible or her religious beliefs to work.” Pierce also called Kloosterman “evil” and a “liar” for adhering to her religious beliefs. After these statements, Pierce also accused Kloosterman of causing patients to commit suicide. 

“Defendant Pierce also asked Ms. Kloosterman whether she knew that by using a patient’s name instead of his or her preferred pronouns, she would cause him or her to commit suicide,” the lawsuit read. “When he said that this assertion was well-documented, Ms. Kloosterman cited some scientific studies that showed otherwise.”

First Liberty attorney Kayla Toney told Campus Reform that Pierce and Kloosterman had never met prior to this meeting. 

“That was one of the strange things about this whole situation. [Kloosterman] had never met these administrators from the University of Michigan, they didn’t work in her clinic,” Toney said. “So when they summoned her to this meeting, she had no idea what to expect, and had never talked with them before.”

[RELATED: UPDATE: University of Southern Maine creates an alternative class for students uncomfortable that there are only two sexes]

The lawsuit also noted that Pierce had “no formal medical training or education” but that he asserted he had studies that would disprove Kloosterman’s.

Kloosterman waited nearly a month before being informed that despite having “never used pronouns that went against a patient’s wishes” or been asked to refer a provider for “‘gender reassignment’ drugs or procedures” she would be fired on Aug. 24.

Kloosterman said in response to the firing, “If this is about my Christian beliefs, I cannot abandon them.”

Toney echoed this statement, “[S]he raised her religious concerns with them, and that’s when they fired her.”

The lawsuit concluded that UMHW unlawfully and unconstitutionally “demand[ed] that Ms. Kloosterman abandon her religious beliefs and her medical ethics to remain employed.”

Toney noted that the discrimination Kloosterman faced had not happened previously “until the University of Michigan took control of her clinic.”

“It’s hard to say but I can say from Ms. Klosterman and others I’ve talked with, they did not experience any sort of religious discrimination before the University of Michigan became involved,” Toney explained. “I do think there’s a connection between the change in management and the change in policies.”

Head of Public Relations and Communications Chris Zoladz told Campus Reform that UMHW “respects the religious beliefs of its employees.”

“We are confident Ms. Kloosterman’s claims, like those she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are without merit,” Zoladz concluded. 

Kloosterman is seeking “reinstatement; payment of her lost wages and benefits; declaratory and injunctive relief; actual, punitive, and nominal damages; and all other applicable remedies.”

Campus Reform contacted UMHW, Kloosterman, and Pierce. This article will be updated accordingly.

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