SAGINAW, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic therapist is suing her Michigan employer after she was fired for refusing to counsel a gay couple, on grounds that it violated her religious beliefs.
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.
"This case shows that people of faith are under assault in the workplace," said her attorney Tyler Brooks of Thomas More Law Center. "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 2017, while Lorentzen was working at HealthSource, a gay couple was referred to her for counseling. After two sessions, Lorentzen approached her supervisor, Mark Kraynak, and "politely asked Mr. Kraynak if she could refer the couple to another therapist in the practice because of the conflict with her religious beliefs," according to the lawsuit.
Kraynak allegedly became angry, retaliating by continual mistreatment, including subjecting her to an interrogation session on her beliefs, where he demanded that she be "a social worker first, and a Catholic second." Other harassment included deliberately slamming a door in her face, causing her to drop files she was carrying; walking into her and pushing against her without apology; and blocking her way while walking through the halls, among other incidents.
Kraynak also informed Lorentzen's clients without her knowledge that they would no longer be able to see her, "many of whom felt angry, betrayed, or anxious about purportedly having to see a new therapist," the lawsuit alleges. Lorentzen was eventually fired.
When the medical director of HealthSource discovered the reason she was leaving, he informed Kraynak he was wrong to terminate her, and that the proper procedure would have been simply to refer the gay couple to another therapist.
Lorentzen is being represented by Thomas More Law Center, a non-profit legal firm that battles anti-Christian bigotry and civil rights infringements on people of faith. Founded by Catholic Richard Thompson, its mission "is to promote and restore America's Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the sanctity of human life, the religious freedom of Christians, and now also the sovereignty and independence of the United States of America," Thompson told Church Militant. The Center provides representation free for its clients.