GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Attorneys representing a fired University of Michigan Health West employee says the health system violated her religious rights when she refused to provide referrals for gender reassignment surgeries and procedures.

Valerie Kloosterman was a physician’s assistant for 17 years with the health system, according to her attorney Kayla Toney.

“She’s a strong Christian. She’s very involved in her local church,” Toney said.

Toney alleges her client’s first amendment rights were violated after the hospital system became part of the University of Michigan health system and Kloosterman was required to go through diversity and inclusion training. 

“When she raised some questions with HR about this training and asked for a religious accommodation, they insulted her religious beliefs, they called her ‘evil.’ They tried to pressure her into violating her beliefs more by referring patients for sex-altering surgeries and drugs,” Toney said.

Toney says her clients free speech rights were violated by the hospital systems requiring the use of certain pronouns.

“The free speech claim comes in because they wanted her to use pronouns that conflicted with human biology and compelling her to speak those pronouns not only violated her faith but also her medical judgement,” Toney said.

The complaint alleges the hospital responded by stating she would be adding to gender-dysphoria related suicides.

Professor Michael McDaniel with Cooley Law School says the physician’s assistant has an uphill battle and that the cases cited in the complaint are different from what happened here.

“The entire purpose of the first amendment — whether we’re talking about the free speech clause or the free (religious) exercise clause — the entire purpose of the first amendment was to ensure tolerance of others that not only do we get to speak what we believe to be our truths and our beliefs, but others get to do so as well and that we’re not going to punish others,” McDaniel said. “The University of Michigan hospital was following a policy, it appears, to embracing and admitting all to the hospital.”

The hospital system declined to speak on camera but provided a statement to News 8.

“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.”

University of Michigan Health-West