The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national non-profit public interest law firm, filed a federal lawsuit on May 11 on behalf of Kathleen Lorentzen, a licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of exemplary experience. In spite of her outstanding record, her former employer, HealthSource Saginaw, located in Michigan, fired her when she asked to be removed from case involving a same-sex couple.
According to the complaint, on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, Lorentzen approached her supervisor, defendant Mark E. Kraynak to ask if she could be removed from the case because of a conflict with her religious beliefs. Although Kraynak was in a good mood prior to the meeting, he became so angry that she felt it was best to excuse herself and leave the meeting.
Several days later, Lorentzen was summoned into another meeting with Mr. Kraynak and Colton Reed, HealthSource’s outpatient manager, who subjected her to an aggressive and condescending interrogation about her faith. She was told that she had to be “a social worker first, and a Catholic second.” When she tried to explain her position by referring to the views of certain members of the clergy, Mr. Kraynak hatefully said, “They are just priests!”
Both men were so angry that she actually felt frightened for her safety and said she wanted to leave. Reed than rushed out and slammed the door. As Lorentzen was leaving, Kraynak walked right behind her, almost on her heels, in a menacing manner, following her all the way out of the office and into the parking lot.
A week later, she received a letter in the mail informing her that she was being terminated in 30 days.
Lorentzen decided to sue for violation of her civil rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 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, the same-sex couple could have easily been referred to another therapist.
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.”
In this era when discrimination is vigorously opposed for select groups - and too often at the expense of Christians - the only way to insure fair treatment is to fight for it.
Let us keep this brave Catholic counselor in our prayers!
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