Thomas More Law Center's Tyler Brooks discusses lawsuit involving bullying, harassment of Catholic therapist
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SAGINAW, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Michigan non-profit is going to bat against anti-Catholic bigotry in Michigan.
Kathleen Lorentzen, a licensed clinical social worker for more than 20 years, filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court alleging that she was bullied, harassed and physically intimidated by employees at HealthSource Saginaw after she declined offering counseling to a same-sex couple. Tyler Brooks, senior trial counsel at Thomas More Law Center, is representing her.
"You do not have to put your job ahead of your religious beliefs and sacrifice those," Brooks told Church Militant in an interview Wednesday.
In 2017, a gay couple was referred to Lorentzen for counseling. After it was made clear they were seeking marriage counseling, Lorentzen approached her supervisor, Mark Kraynak, and "politely asked" if he would refer the couple to another therapist, as counseling them would conflict with her Catholic faith, according to the lawsuit.
Kraynak allegedly became angry, demanding that she be "a social worker first, and a Catholic second." He went on a campaign of harassment that included deliberately shutting a door in her face, causing her to drop files she was carrying; walking into her and pushing against her without apology; blocking her way while walking through the halls; and even standing close to her in a sexually intimidating way.
"Unfortunately, we have many employers ... that have given in to forces of political correctness, forces that come under the banner of tolerance that in fact are anything but tolerant, that have a very anti-religious animus behind them," said Brooks, "and they want to see Christians silenced and marginalized and push us out of the way."
State and federal law protect against this very form of discrimination, and Brooks recalled words from the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized gay marriage):
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.
"Even though gay marriage is now legal, it's not open season on those who hold a traditional view of marriage," Brooks explained.
HealthSource Saginaw is denying Lorentzen's claims, calling them "a work of fiction disguised as a legal pleading."
Calling it a "very aggressive statement," Brooks wondered if it signals whether HealthSources intends "to fight this lawsuit very vigorously."
"We are prepared to stand in the breach; Kathy Lorentzen is a very brave individual," Brooks commented. "She undertook this lawsuit primarily so that her rights would be vindicated so that others would know that they have rights protected by federal and state civil rights laws, that they do not have to compromise their religious beliefs, that they do not have to be, as HealthSource said, 'a social worker first, and a Catholic second.'"