A marriage counselor in Michigan has filed suit against her former employer after she was fired for refusing to counsel a gay couple, claiming it conflicted with her Catholic faith.
Kathleen Lorentzen alleges in her federal lawsuit, filed late last week, that the company, HealthSource Saginaw, discriminated against her because of her religious beliefs.
Additionally, she also claims her male supervisors physically intimidated her after she asked for the couple to be referred to another therapist, closing a door on her and blocking her as she tried to walk down a hallway.
Those two supervisors, Mark Kraynak and Mark Puckett, are listed as defendants in the suit.
Lorentzen, who worked at HealthSource as an outpatient behavioral therapist from 2011 until last year, had a gay couple referred to her for marriage counseling. She met with the couple twice but decided she could not continue working with them due to her religious beliefs.
The suit alleges the request to have the couple transferred upset Kraynak, who became angry and later questioned her at a meeting, telling her to be “a social worker first, and a Catholic second.” On September 6, Lorentzen claims Puckett gave her a letter informing her that she would be terminated in 30 days.
HealthSource also allegedly told Lorentzen’s clients that she would be leaving the company—causing upset among some of them about the prospect of having to find a new therapist—and then interfered with her ability to see her patients after she was fired.
According to the lawsuit, HealthSource’s medical director, upon learning of the reason for Lorentzen’s firing, told Kraynak and another supervisor that the couple could have been referred to another therapist, as requested.
Lorentzen is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount in damages.
The issue of so-called “religious freedom” has become a key part of the Trump administration’s efforts. President Trump has signed back to back “religious freedom” executive orders on the National Day of Prayer.
Last year, he signed an order undermining the Johnson Amendment, giving the IRS permission to look the other way when churches campaign from the pulpit, despite their tax-exempt status.
This year, he signed an order creating a new faith-based office, “the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative,” to make recommendations concerning “religious liberty” to the administration, and inform it of any failures of the executive to uphold those protections.
Earlier this year, the administration created the new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” of the Department of Health and Human Services, devoted to ensuring doctors, nurses and health-care workers won’t have to offer services if they have a moral objection.