A federal lawsuit has been filed by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Kathleen Lorentzen, a Catholic and licensed clinical social worker was told by her supervisor at health provider in Michigan that she had to be “a social worker first and a Catholic second.” According to Lorentzen’s legal counsel, she was fired because she refused to compromise her Catholic faith which teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) filed the suit the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan against HealthSource Saginaw, Lorentzen’s former employer, on May 11. TMLC contends that HealthSource violated Lorentzen’s civil rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as Michigan state law. TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Tyler Brooks said, “This case shows that people of faith are under assault in the workplace. The fact is, however, that Christians need not choose between their faith and their jobs. Despite what many would have us believe, discrimination against Christians is a civil rights violation that will subject employers to legal liability.”
TMLC stated that Lorentzen had an exemplary employment record of providing psychological counseling for over 20 years to a diverse group of patients. The events leading to Lorentzen’s termination began after a gay couple seeking marriage counseling was referred to her. She had seen the couple twice in 2017. Lorentzen had counseled many homosexual patients in her career, TMLC stated that she could not see this couple any further for marriage counseling, citing her religious beliefs and practices regarding marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
TMLC charges that Lorentzen’s supervisor was angered when Lorentzen asked for the couple to be referred to another therapist, as was her right under Title VII. Federal civil rights law generally requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs so long as doing so would not impose an undue hardship. In this case, said a TMLC release, the couple could have easily been referred to another therapist.
After this initial meeting, Lorentzen was called into a second meeting with the same supervisor as well as HealthSource’s outpatient manager. In this meeting, according to TMLC, Lorentzen was interrogated about her faith and her work at HealthSource. At one point, one of the men dismissively referred to the teachings of the Catholic Church by saying, “They are just priests.” It was soon thereafter that Lorentzen received a letter informing her of her termination.
As described in the complaint, TMLC believes that Lorentzen was terminated on the basis of her religion, as well as her request for an accommodation under the law and her opposition to being discriminated against on the basis of her religion.